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Wednesday 26 September 2012

Ask the Sluts: Where are our favourite independent bookshops?

We've picked a new book for Sluttery Book Club! We're going to be reading Marian Keyes' latest, The Mystery of Mercy Close. It might have only just come out, but it's been long-awaited and the positive reviews are flying in quickly. Our live chat will be on October 15th, so you've got plenty of time to get reading.

And in the meantime? We're getting all excited about our favourite independent bookshops. This is where you'll usually find us on Saturday mornings.

Sian: My favourite bookshop actually isn't in the UK (I know, that's not very helpful). The Book Market at 11 Calle del Cauce in Torromelinos is one of my favourite places. It sells second hand books, but you can also sell your books back and this was a literary lifeline when I ran off to live in Spain three months.

And in this country? I'll always have a soft spot for the Castle Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, because well... it's a bookshop in a castle. It's also got a fabulous view and a bench outside. And Clerkenwell Tales in London is so beautiful, like a little curated art gallery. These days most of my books come from The Riverside Bookshop by Sluttery HQ. But that might have something to do with the handsome bookseller.

Frances: One of my favourite things is my London bookshop map. It's published every year and maps out independent bookstores in the capital. I always fondly look towards my corner of the map where I can guarantee The Bookseller Crow will always provide me with an excellent new read if I wander in on a Saturday and Balham's My Back Pages has given me many hours of enjoyable rummage time amongst their secondhand books, and countless more reading them. I've not been but I long to take a trip up to Barter Books in the station in Alnwick. While it is them we can thank for the whole Keep Calm phenomenon, don't hold that against them. They also promise roaring open fires, coffee and cookies, and a model railway. All that AND books. Amazing.

Laura: I was born and raised in a town just 30 minutes’ drive from Inverness, but I didn't actually discover my now-favourite bookshop, Leakey’s, until a few years ago. Housed in an 18th-century Gaelic church, the shop is gasp-inducingly beautiful, and crammed with secondhand books. I could happily spend all day here.

I lived in Madrid for two years and, like Sian, a constant supply of books in English was a necessity. Foreign-language books in Spain are super-expensive when bought new from big chains, so J&J Books & Coffee was a favourite haunt of mine. It’s cheap and friendly – with great coffee, pizza, and cocktails to boot – and it has a brilliant trade-in system so you can swap your old books for new-to-you ones. And who can resist a bookshop that’s open until 1.30am?

Kat: In the strictest sense, I don't have a favourite that I buy from all the time. Isn't that appalling? For the simple reason that the books I buy I tend to get from The Kindle Store, or The Folio Society if I'm forking out for something special for a friend's birthday.

When I visit my parents, I love One Tree Books in Petersfield - it's been doing the coffee, cake, jazz and books thing for a trillion years - and in London I've a huge soft spot for the Oxfam Bookshop in Hampstead, which is just one of the most magical places in London. It has a vast selection of creakingly ancient tomes in beautiful covers, it's half-hidden down a little street and it always makes me remember why I love reading. I'm also dying to visit Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, but I suspect that's because I want his Reading Year present far, far more!

Caleigh: My absolute favourite bookshop has to be The Cottage Bookshop in Penn, Buckinghamshire.  It's two floors, crammed with second hand books ranging from chick lit and murder mysteries through to rare and antique titles. I could easily lose myself in there for hours (and often have). Be warned, you will leave with your arms full of books!

The first bookshop I ever visited and the one where I fell in love with reading was the Milngavie Bookshop, just outside of Glasgow. Whenever I visit my parents I still love to pop in and browse the shelves and have a cup of coffee in their wee cafe. There's a real community to this bookshop and I definitely feel like one of the family!

Got a favourite bookshop? Tell us immediately. And then run off to buy The Mystery of Mercy Close and join in next month's Sluttery Book Club.


  1. The Oxfam Shop in Hampstead: you've linked to the one on the main street. Has it moved?

    My favourite was the Fantasy Centre in the Holloway Road, now it's the Oxfam shop and @booksforfreeEN5 both in High Barnet.

    1. Mea culpa - I ran a search for the book store and that was the link that's come up. Oxfam's terrible websites makes me blind.

  2. The Art of Tea in Didsbury. It's a gorgeous little cafe selling yummy food and cake, and at the back there's a second-hand bookshop. Really couldn't get any better. If there are no tables free you browse in the bookshop and they give you a shout when there's a space.

  3. Bookmongers in Brixton! Because the shelves are overflowing and there are piles on the floor that you have to climb around, but if you ask the man if he has a book HE JUST KNOWS WITHOUT CHECKING A COMPUTER. Amazing. And it's called Bookmongers - what's not to like?

  4. The white rose book shop in Thirsk North Yorkshire is fab. Lovely people nice coffee shop. Happy to let kids wander and browse.

  5. You absolutely cannot beat Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.

  6. You absolutely cannot beat Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.

  7. Oh Leakeys is divine! After walking across Scotland (starting from Milngavie actually!) we spent hours and hours browsing and drinking too much tea, waiting for our evening train. After 2 weeks in the wild, it was just bliss!

  8. I love barter books in Alnwick too! Scriveners in Buxton is fab too! It's over 5 floors and is like a complete maze of cozy corners and floor to ceiling books all the way from the basement to the attic - every now and again you'll come across a tea making station and a chair to cuddle up in - exactly wat you want in a bookshop!

  9. Barter Books is amazing!


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