Whenever I go anywhere new, one of the items that is always on my to-do list is to find the local bookshops. While there’s nothing wrong with trusty old Waterstones, my favourite kinds of bookshops are the second hands and independents; dusty hideouts where books are crammed in from floor to ceiling like Armchair Books in Edinburgh, or carefully curated selections arranged in suggestive themes like Libreria in London.
In (early) celebration of this year’s Bookshop Day on October 8th, I decided to visit my favourite second hand bookshop, Barter Books on Friday.
Barter Books is situated in the market town of Alnwick within the old Victorian train station. As an avid fan of The Railway Children growing up, this really sets my heart aflutter; there’s even a little model railway chugging around the shelves overhead! (You can find out more about the shop’s history on their website.) The shop doors open into a room lit by the warm glow of firelight with Chesterfield sofas to curl up on and peruse your selection. One of the best things about second hand bookshops in particular is the musty smell of old books, and Barter Books is no different. (The Library of Fragrance have actually replicated this scent in a perfume!)
The Station Buffet, set across the old Boiler Room, the First Class Ladies’ and Gentleman’s Waiting Rooms and the 3rd Class Waiting Room, provides breakfasts and lunches for those who’ve grown hungry after book-browsing (and let me tell you, you could browse for hours)!
As a collector of both children’s books from the early 20th century to the 1960s (approximately, there have been many exceptions to this rule!) and copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, my favourite section is definitely Children’s Classic Fiction. I love perusing the cover art on the dust jackets and reading the blurbs to see the adventures that are contained within.
Barter Books is a book lovers dream. The dreamy setting means that it’s worth a visit even if you’re not an avid reader, but those who have grown up with their nose in a book (like me!) will find that it sets their soul alight. If you’ve ever been told that you’re a bit twee (hi Mrs. Walton), Barter Books is a must for your go-to list.
Barter Books is also partially responsible for the rise of a certain meme after the owners were the first to rediscover the infamous Keep Calm and Carry On poster from the Second World War. You can find out more about that in this video:
Following Bookshop Day, bookshops will be encouraged to celebrate Civilised Saturday, billed as bookshops’ answer to Black Friday, on November 26th.
Did you celebrate Bookshop Day in any way? Let me know your favourite bookshops!