Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Bath Bookshop Crawl 2016

I wrote in my rereadathon wrap-up post that I've spent the end of my holiday in Cardiff and Bath. Although I was only away for four nights, I managed to fit a lot into my time away, catching up with two friends from the Isle of Wight, recording a podcast with one of them, seeing Going Postal in Cardiff, and the trip culminated in the Bath Bookshop Crawl on Saturday. This was another event organised by Bex, following on from the success of the London Bookshop Crawl at the beginning of the year.

The Bath Bookshop Crawl was smaller than the London one, but no less memorable. There were ten of us altogether, which was a good cosy number to get to know each other. We met in a coffee shop by the station for tea or milkshakes, all except for Ellie whose train was delayed. Our first bookshop stop was Good Buy Books, a little discount bookstore on the corner, whose selection might not be huge but had some great bargains and surprising gems. I snapped up a hardback copy of The Time Machine for a good price. Some of us went to explore the nearby wool shop and haberdashery, before regrouping and heading off towards the Guildhall market. Ellie joined us along the way, recognising a small huddle of people laden down with book bags. Bath is a nicely compact city, without too much of a walk between destinations (although I took a long time the previous day to orientate myself.

Next up Skoobs (no relation to Skoob Books in London, which is another great bookshop to check out, right by Russell Square tube station.) It was described as a second-hand bookstall in the marketplace, but that doesn't really do it justice; not just a table spread with dog-eared copies of The Da Vinci Code, Skoobs was a decent-sized small bookshop in its own right. There was a lovely selection of books of all genres, bookcases for children's books, fantasy and horror, romance and saga, general fiction - and quite probably a lot of non-fiction too, but I didn't see everything there. But there were a lot of children's books from my childhood and fantasy from my teenage years, all in editions that brought me out in nostalgia - and I finally completed my Malory Towers collection with "my" covers (Well, they all have the same pictures though some are different styles; the Dragon/Armada ones from the late '80s and early '90s.) I also bought The Outsiders, which I'm pretty sure I read as a teenager, but don't quite remember, and which I've found so many references to in the last few months. Several of us huddled round by the sci-fi, fantasy and horror shelves, and I sighed happily over the Dark Moon by Julia Gray, a long-forgotten series that devoured a crucial week or two of study-leave before my A-Levels. I also went off on a bit of a rant about how terrible Stephen King's Dreamcatcher is. Sorry people!

Waterstone's was the biggest bookshop we visited, and it really is a beauty. They very kindly offered us a free lunch, and our scouts emerged from upstairs to tell us that there was a table set for us in the cookery section. One of the booksellers waited on us, giving us real VIP treatment, taking orders for toasted paninis, cakes, and plenty of tea and coffee, even giving us all goody-bags. I was just expecting a plate of triangle sandwiches and maybe a cupcake or two! I think we all felt a bit guilty that they went to so much trouble for us. We are not worthy! (But thank you so much, Waterstone's Bath, you really made it a special experience.) 

I bought two books: Fellside by M.R. Carey, the author of The Girl With All The Gifts, and The Race by Nina Allan, another book with a figure silhouetted against a starry sky on its cover. (Hey, that worked out well last time! This is apparently a very different kind of book to Small Angry Planet, however.) I also came away with a 99 Things That Bring Me Joy journal, to fill in and keep in my Happy Box. (I don't think I've written about my Happy Box before. Remind me to do a post about it some time.) 

Our next stop was Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, which is a beautiful and I believe a rather famous bookshop. The decor was beautiful, with a wall of Tintin comics, tote bags on a ceiling, and the downstairs toilet had been decorated/doodled on by artist and illustrator Chris Riddell. In Waterstone's I had more or less decided to put off buying Joe Hill's latest tome The Fireman for another day - it was heavy and quite expensive - but I had no sooner set foot in Mr B's than I discovered they had signed copies for sale. So whoops, onto the pile it went! I also went in search of a book I'd noticed in Cardiff, The Fair Fight about lady boxers in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, which has been compared to and has a blurb by Sarah Waters - always a promising sign.

Our final bookshop was Topping and Company, just around the corner, a proper, elegant old-fashioned kind of bookshop, with high shelves with those long ladders that every book-loving little girl dreams of. There was a table full of hardback fiction, many signed first editions, with protective plastic covers. I only had enough money for one more book and was torn between The Essex Serpent and The Muse, before finally settling on the latter, because I'd really liked Jessie Burton's previous offering The MiniaturistWe were offered tea and biscuits while browsing; I'm not sure if that was a special bookshop crawl thing or whether all shoppers get to have afternoon tea as part of the Topping experience. We were all rather weary by that point and glad to have a sit down and put down our heavy tote bags for a while. 

We had one other shop on the itinerary, American Dream comics, but by the time we got there, it was about five minutes before closing time. The shop was quite a small one, with plenty of comics and Pop Vinyl figures. I don't read a lot of comics or graphic novels, and there wasn't time to have a good old browse. I did look for a Holtzmann figure from the new Ghostbusters film, but alas, I have not yet been able to find her.

Some of our number went home at that point, but six of us went over to the pub where my friend James, one of my fellow "People Under The Stairs" from high school, works. I'd met up with him the previous day, and we'd gone out for drinks - and I added him to the list of people I'd introduced to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. (That makes six that I know of.) The bar was busy, it being a Saturday night, but James was able to pop out of the kitchen briefly to say hello. We ordered drinks and food, and counted up our combined purchases. There were about 40 between the six of us, and I made it 76 altogether, a not-too-shabby contribution to the Bath bookselling economy.


  1. I recognise that Good Buy Books postcard! Sounds like my ideal shop to be honest - we had one like that in Bakewell for a while, with way better stock than most remainder shops but still at stupidly weeny prices. Crap for us as a bookshop, GREAT for me as a book hoarder. ;)

    I LOVE The Outsiders - it was basically the book of my teenage years, I was obsessed - and I'm ALSO collected the Malory Towers in 'my' covers. Unfortunately I'm having a hard time getting them because a second run was made under the same imprint and the same year, but in a completely different style, and most copies I've seen have been in the 'wrong' edition. I'll get there though!#

    TOTALLY jealous of your Waterstones lunch, because TEA AND CAKE and CELEBRITY TREATMENT for NO OUTLAY. Perfect, and all the more so because it was unexpected!

    I really like the sound of The Fireman, but since I haven't read his others yet - I have Heart-Shaped Box, N0S4R2 (from you!) and Horns to read - I've firmly informed myself that I won't be buying it yet. Believe it or not, I'm actually doing quite well at reading my books and releasing them into the wild WITHOUT buying a million more these days! Topping also sounds wonderful, like my perfect bookshop in fact. When I went to Bath a few years ago I was kept strictly away from all bookish places in favour of sightseeing, cafes and the (admittedly wonderful) costume museum, so... no bookshops for me.

    Aaaand that pub looks super cool. One of the colleges in Oxford has an underground bar like that and it looked like the BEST place to sit and read over a drink when it was quiet. OKAY I'M DONE I'M GOING I'M GOING TEA AND BANANA LOAF WAIT FOR NO WOMAN. :)

    1. *collectING the Malory Towers BOOKS in 'my' covers. I did not proofread this comment.

    2. I remember that shop in Bakewell. I bought an amazing steampunky notebook there once. You mean it's not there any more? That's a shame.

      I'm sure I read The Outsiders as a teenager, but I'm not sure if what I remember from it is from that book or something else. Apart from "stay gold Ponyboy," of course.

      I have a mixed set of the Malory Towers books; the ones I had as a kid has colourful covers, whereas the ones I bought recently had the same pictures but plain covers (as seen above.) Did you have those or the more modern-looking blueish ones? They changed the design while I was reading them. I believe I've actually had four copies of Last Term at Malory Towers now. One I lent out and never saw again, not sure what happened to its replacement (probably ditto) I have a '70s copy I found in Oxfam, and finally this one.

      The Waterstone's lunch was lovely! We wondered if they expected something from us. Still, we bought lots of books from them; probably everyone bought at least one, and many bought more. I think I bought something from every shop except the comic shop.

      I really liked NOS4R2, wasn't keen on Horns and Heart-Shaped Box was OK. The Fireman was full-price, but I just couldn't wait until next year when the paperback is out (which means I ought to read it before then to make it worthwhile. Sadly the cover got a bit damaged because my tote bag wasn't as waterproof as I thought. But the book itself is OK.

      The Boater is an amazing pub. It's similar in feel to The Hobbit in Southampton which is my favourite pub; that one has a special place in my heart because it was the first time I really felt at home in a pub (among all the goths and cool geeks.) And I felt so proud seeing James's name on the menus at the Boater as Head Chef. Sadly he's leaving soon, going off to Canada for a year with a friend. But he'll be back on the island for a bit beforehand, so hopefully I'll get to see some more of him then.

    3. There were two remainder shops actually - one called Titles, down a side street, and a smaller one called The Book Corner, which was close by but out on the main street. Titles was still there last time I went, but The Book Corner had disappeared again. Shame.

      There's a really nice song from the movie The Outsiders: Stay Gold by Stevie Wonder. It's on my iTunes, very quiet and gentle and nostalgic.

      I mostly had the Malory Towers hardcover books like this:
      With a couple of these thrown in:

      Sadly I have plenty of experience with both things related to The Fireman - buying new hardcovers then not reading them before the paperback comes out (particularly annoying for ones that turn up in the '2 for £7' deal in Tesco!) AND damaging new acquisitions in the rain. Fortunately my Waterstones books were in a carrier inside the not-so-waterproof tote, but I was standing in torrential rain on a temporary bookshop for 30 minutes with a bagful of charity and remainder shop buys too. Two books were all but destroyed by water damage, and it was raining so hard that the water soaked through my coat and two tops and starting trickling down my bra. Good times. >:(

    4. *temporary BUS STOP, not bookshop! Rhymes though. :)


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