“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
The above quotes are by two of my favourite authors and they very much encapsulate how I feel about bookshops. I have recently been extremely busy with work and, returning from a long business trip, I got to thinking about the importance of books and bookshops in my life and, more importantly, my sanity!
Books have always figured largely in my world. I fought against them as a child, mainly because the repeated phrases drove me insane. I can still quote one particular book with intense savagery today (for those of you who grew up as I did with the Sali Mali books, you’ll understand what I mean). In self-defence, my infants teacher started me off on a series aimed at 7-10 year olds. I was five at the time and it was my first introduction to an entire new world of wonder and enchantment. I was hooked. I devoured those books, desperate to know what adventures the Griffin, the Pirate and the Mermaid would fall into next. By the time I hit secondary school, my reading age was that of a sixteen year old and I was insatiable. I had also discovered the joy and lure of a good bookshop and nearly all of what money I had at the time was spent within the portals of the local bookshops.
Bookshops still intoxicate me. I have several that I patronise, some here, some there, some online. I prefer independents, though there are some good chains out there. This is the first in an occasional series of my favourite bookshops – and of a few tea shops too. I will include web address, where they exist, in case you’d like to look them up too.
Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London ( http://www.watkinsbooks.com/ )
Hidden away between St Martin’s Lane and Charing Cross Road, London, Cecil’s Court is full of little gems, but I go there because of Watkins. Trading since 1983, it specialises in books on the esoteric. Just as you never know what sort of book you may come across in Watkins, you also never know who you may meet. Spaced across two floors, as soon as you walk in the warmth of the place surrounds you. The staff here are genuinely knowledgable about their subject and are invariably welcoming and friendly. As well as books on religions of all kinds, magic, self-development, earth mysteries and Celtica, they also stock books on health, astrology, nutrition… The list goes on and on. They also stock divination cards, crystal jewellery and CDs, which range from New Age to Early Music. A very wide breadth. They arrange regular free evening events with some of the authors whose books they stock – no need to book. If you happen to be in the area, just drop in. You can also get a Tarot or palm reading here every day of the week. Their loyalty scheme gives a really good discount once you have collected enough stamps (unfortunately only available on books brought in the shop at present).
I try to make a point of visiting here every time I am in London. It’s a little haven of comfort and happiness in a manic world. A place to while away a magic couple of hours away from the pressures of the everyday.
Why not let me know what and where your favourite bookshops are?