We agree wholeheartedly with Jane Austen – so in celebration of this year’s Books are My Bag campaign, which kicks off this Saturday 10th October, some of our most discerning Penguins have shared their favourite independent bookshops.
I love bookshops that are a labyrinth of stories, sprinkled with a helping of dust. For me it should be a place where I can wander and browse an enormous collection before snapping one up for a bargain. Luckily, such a place exists tucked away on Marchmont Street in London. Skoob Books is a wonderful place, with fantastic staff and a soothing atmosphere.
Nicky Borasinski, Digital Development Assistant
I love The Book Hive in Norwich. They have the most beautiful upstairs section which has all different versions of my favourite classics, I have absolutely no willpower and think I now own eight different versions of Jane Eyre…
Stephenie Naulls – Junior Campaigns Officer – Penguin.
News From Nowhere on Bold Street in Liverpool is my favourite indie bookshop because browsing its shelves when I first moved to Liverpool in my late teens felt like I’d discovered a bookshop that was designed just for me. Run as a not-for-profit workers’ co-op, it stands for causes I believe in and does great work as a community hub for like-minded people. I really admire how it only stocks titles that its staff believe “empower and inspire people to make positive changes to the world”, and how it gets involved in local political causes.
Jonathan Deamer – Senior Digital Marketing Analyst
In Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester the windows are always glinting, the cushions are plumped and the selection of picture books are more technicolour than a trip to Oz on Boxing Day.
Andrea Bowie – Creative Executive – Puffin
The Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace has a well curated selection of contemporary fiction and non-fiction in a nice space in one of the best parts of London – basically everything you would want from a bookshop. What’s more, after you’ve bought your book you can take a short walk and read it in the company of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Co-owner Jonathan Main, channels the spirit of Bernard Black (but a friendlier version thereof) in an erudite, prickly Twitter feed that’s well worth following.
Paul Martinovic – Campaigns Manager – Penguin
I won’t lie, I like a first edition. I haven’t got many, it can get expensive once you start getting into it, but for some books in your life there can sometimes be no better way to feel how special they are than by searching out the very first copy of them to have existed. The secondhand and collectible bookshops on and around Charing Cross Road have been a happy haunt of mine for years and the rather lovely Cecil Court has a fine selection all of its own. But some of them can be rather imposing, the kind of place where you feel as though you’re not meant to touch the dusty shelves and can often get a shock when you ask how much books cost. Nestled amongst them, and in fact bursting to prominence with its recent extension into shops either side is Goldsboro Books which specialises in modern signed first editions. Owner David Headley is knowledgeable, passionate and, once you get to know him, hilarious and full of great stories. The shop is a pleasure to browse in and I’ve picked up not just lovely books but brilliant recommendations from him and the other staff over the years. On those rare occasions when I find myself with a few minutes to kill in town I almost always head over to Goldsboro.
Will Rycroft – Community Manager – Vintage Books
I love Toppings & Co in Ely, it’s one of those excellent shops with corners, perfect for encouraging you to walk around sections of the shop you wouldn’t normally traverse and discover wonderful hidden gems.
Lynsey Dalladay – Dead Good Books
I absolutely love Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill. The way the team there dress the window display is incredible and makes it feel like an adventure to step inside the shop. The staff are passionate and well-informed and have always guided me to pick interesting books for my kids that I wouldn’t have thought to try. We’ve attended events with authors at the store and these have been really well planned and executed (inevitably resulting in a book purchase at the end!). It’s a really wonderful shop and I am always grateful to have it on my doorstep.
Julia Pal – Senior Digital Marketing Manager – The Happy Foodie
For me a good bookshop his full of atmosphere with a decent creak in the floorboards. Located on the cobbled streets of Whitby, The Whitby Book Shop is packed top to bottom with books. The entrance room displays a variety of latest releases and adult books and for a small space, the booksellers have a real knack of making you want pretty much every book on display. Kids can escape through an arched doorway to a treasure trove of children’s books and a beautiful curved (and more importantly creaky) staircase leads you into a room full of second hand, bargain books. The Whitby Bookshop is a must visit if you are visiting, make sure to buy a copy of Dracula while you are there – Whitby’s most notorious resident.
Sarah McKenna – Senior Web Editor
If you ever find yourself in Galway City, then I urge you to check out Charlie Bryne’s Bookshop. It offers a massive range of new and secondhand books, and the selection is really something I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. A favourite among the university students in the area, Charlie’s is a browsers paradise – teetering towers of books arranged in the most delightful categories, meaning that you never leave without at least one book you never would have considered before. As a student in Galway I spent hours of my time there, and I always make sure to pay it a visit when I find myself back there.
Savannah McGowan – Consumer Engagement Assistant
Whenever I go away I seek out an new bookshop to visit, so on a recent holiday took a trip to the charmingly named Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh’s shiny new Quartermile complex. Packed full of bookish riches (and numerous Vintage red spines), if it wasn’t for my lack of luggage space I’d have left with more than just one book…
Sam Book – Digital Marketing Executive – Penguin
London’s literary quarter is bursting with wonderful little specialist bookshops. You can expand your reading in any direction, from the occult at Treadwell’s, to LGBT literature at Gay’s The Word. But my favourite without a doubt is the delightfully pun-fully named socialist bookshop, Bookmarks. It’s muddled and dusty, a place to be explored at leisure. Here you’ll find reportage and commentary on coups in South America, the NHS, the Arab Spring, women’s rights, the trade union movement, gender politics, anthropology, the arrival of the Windrush, and so much more, plus a large stock of essays and pamphlets. The staff are keen and helpful and always ready for a chat or debate. It’s just the perfect place to engage your political self.
Zainab Juma – Email Marketing and CRM Manager
Where’s your favourite independent bookshop? Let us know on Twitter @PenguinUKBooks. Books are My Bag is a nationwide celebration of the brilliance of bookshops, and is taking place on Saturday 10th October.