“I have gone to [this bookshop] for years, always finding the one book I wanted – and then three more I hadn’t known I wanted.” -Mary Ann Shaffer
This past week, from the 18th to the 25th of June, marked Independent Bookshop Week in the UK. The aim of IBW is to raise the profiles of independent bookshops, to help them prosper in an industry which is being taken over by bigger chains, eBooks and by online booksellers. IBW exists as an attempt to encourage readers to fall in love with the independent bookshops in their cities, with the hidden treasures lurking on the crowded shelves, with the delicately and passionately curated collections of books, with your next favourite book.
Unfortunately for me, Aberdeen does not have much to offer in terms of independents. However, luckily enough for me, I was in Edinburgh this last week and so I took myself to two wonderful independent bookshops and a third, more alternative place. I quickly fell head over heels for the atmosphere and the magic of these wonderlands, and I want to share my Independent Bookshop Week experience with you.
The Writers’ Museum
I came across this beautiful place by sheer chance, while wandering down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh after a trip to the castle. This museum can be found on Lady Stair’s close, just off of the Royal Mile, on a small side street. The outside is reminiscent of a building off of Diagon Alley, and the slabs on the pavement are littered with quotes by Scottish authors. This museum is dedicated to three of the most prolific and famous Scottish writers of all time; Sir Walter Scott, Robbie Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The reason I mention this wonderful museum, is that inside there is a small bookshop (which for the sake of this post, I am classing as an independent) which, like the museum, is dedicated to Scottish authors. After an hour or so wandering around the museum in wonder, I stumbled into this bookshop…and I left with four books, either written or edited by a Scottish native.
Love Letters of Great Men edited by Ursula Doyle
This is a collection of letters by some of the most famous men in history, written for the loves of their lives. Names include Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and Robbie Burns. I’ve finished this already, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The review is up on my blog if you would like to read it!
An Apology for Idlers by Robert Louis Stevenson
As far as I understand it, this is an essay collection which discusses work ethic and enjoying the simple pleasures in life, as well as discussing issues such as age and love. I had never heard of this collection by Stevenson before finding it in this bookshop.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
This is a book I was aware of before, but had never picked up. I was attracted to this edition and didn’t feel I could leave without it. This book is about one man, and two conflicting personalities. The mystery is very appealing to me.
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
This is apparently a stunning book revolving around Nan Shepherd’s relationship with nature, and her adventures in the Cairngorm Mountains. I had never heard of Nan Shepherd, however I leafed through the book and read the first page and was drawn in.
The Golden Hare
Situated on St Stephen Street in Edinburgh, I wandered in here on a rainy, bleak day and immediately lit up at what greeted me. This bookshop is full of gorgeous editions of books, and the shelves are full of carefully selected and stylish covers, of books both obscure and diverse. Walking in I was like a child at Christmas who doesn’t know which present to open first…which shelf should I start with?! Ah! This bookshop is aesthetically pleasing in all manners, with it’s beautiful interior, and the displays of its books being meticulously set out. I came out of Golden Hare Books with two books which I would never have found, and subsequently never have bought, if it were not for this independent.
We Don’t Know What We’re Doing by Thomas Morris
This is a short story collection consisting of ten stories, which follow different characters from Caerphilly, Wales through their life and highlights how nobody really knows what they’re doing or where they’re headed.
I gravitated towards this because I loved the cover, and I saw the quote from Ali Smith on the front. Who wouldn’t trust Ali Smith?
How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel by Pierre Bayard
This book is described as a thought provoking and funny discussion on the misunderstood idea of the ‘non journey’ and about travelling from the comfort of your armchair.
This book had me hooked with the title, as I am somebody who has not travelled much and wants to rectify this. I am not sure what it will give me, but I look forward to the discovery.
The Edinburgh Bookshop
My final stop on my quest was The Edinburgh Bookshop. Of all the places I went, I have to say this was my favourite. Walls littered with nostalgic paintings of childhood fictional favourites like the Gruffalo and Nelly the Elephant…bookshelves from floor to ceiling teeming with books waiting to be read…a comfy sofa…a homey feel. I loved this place. This bookshop has a lot of children’s books, as well as adult fiction, non fiction, poetry and more.
I entered this shop with a smile on my face, and left this shop with an even bigger smile and three books, thus ending my independent book shop spree.
Fuck Feelings: Less Obsessing, More Living (Even if everything’s truly horrible) by Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett
A book discussing how you can’t necessarily change your mental health status or outlook, however there are ways in which you can master skills over your life. It sounds like a more realistic version of a self help book, and also sounds rather funny.
Hands: What we do with them- and why by Darian Leader
This is a non fiction book about human life and how history, psychoanalysis, modern technology and child development can be explained…through what our hands have been up to!
An interesting topic for a book, and something I can’t wait to read.
The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness
My mum used to read Ladybird fairytales to me that came in this sort of format, that she had collected from growing up in the 1970s. Therefore, when I saw these books I felt a wave of nostalgia and was also eager to enjoy the sarcasm within in the pages.
Spoiler: I’ve read this, and it is bloody hilarious!!!
So, after exploring a couple of independent bookshops and seeing what this world has to offer me, I can safely say I am converted. I would urge any of you, if you really love to read, to go and find your nearest independent bookshop, go in with some money and with no shopping list in mind…and let your eyes scan the shelves and search for gems. Because who knows? Your favourite book may just be waiting there for you, and you may have missed it otherwise.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post. Take care. Pip pip!