My Dream Bookshop

Last week I had lunch in the Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy.  If I have a favourite bookshop, I think this might come close.  Sitting in the cafe by the woodburning stove, eating home made soup and ciabattas and cake, looking at travel books and maps.  The bookshop upstairs is nicely divided into rooms, with separate areas for fiction, gardening and cooking, and beautiful stationery, and a separate little room for children’s books.

Nowadays, I tend to regard paperbacks as a bit of a consumable.  I prefer to order them on my Kindle as my bookshelves are already full to overflowing and I just don’t need any more stuff.  Given that, a trip to a bookshop is no longer a functional thing for me.  It has to be an experience in itself.

The bookshop of my dreams is a beautiful place.  A modern bookshop has to be about more than the written word, it has to be a visual experience too.  We are not there to read the whole book, we’re there to browse, to look at covers, to absorb words, and for that reason alone it seems to be that book covers are going to become more important than ever before, with booksellers knowing that part of the appeal of their bookshop is based on how the books look on the shelf.

More than ever before, I find myself drawn to books that look different, that are something worth owning not only for the words, but for the look of them, for the feel of them.  I find myself drawn to hardbacks, to special editions, to attractive illustrations and books with illustrative inserts.  Most paperbacks I’ll read once and rarely look at again.  These books I will pick up again and again, and I’ll probably pay more for them because of it.

Good advice, too, is at the heart of the bookshop of my dreams.  I want the bookseller to have read many of their books, to be informed.  I want to be able to talk about books I’ve enjoyed, and to receive recommendations beyond ‘other people who bought this book bought these books so therefore you must like them too’.

Coffee, cake, soup and sandwiches seems to me to be an essential part of a bookshop visit.  Visiting a bookshop is not a functional experience.  It’s a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon.  We want to spend time browsing the shelves, and afterwards we want to sit, relax and absorb our purchases.

As a parent, I would like to see a member of staff every bit as informed about children’s books as others are about adult books.  The Watermill’s separate room, with chairs for the children to sit in and sample books for them to handle, is ideal.  My own experience from my own children is that kids still prefer real books to the Kindle forms, and these will continue to sell for bookshops.

But my dream bookshop in the clouds would do more.   Author events and readings, certainly, but also creative writing workshops, live music, live poetry, children’s book events, the possibilities are endless.  My dream bookshop would be a hub of creativity.  It would provide an experience that no functional online marketplace can ever live up to.  People would travel for miles to visit my dream bookshop, it would be a place of pilgrimage for all those of creative sensibilities….

OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away now,  but the point remains, bookshops now need to be so much more than bookshops, they need to be a day out, a voyage of discovery.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?  What does your dream bookshop look like?  Comment here and maybe I’ll do a best bookshops in the UK blog before the end of the year.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post
  1. Caroline Harrison says:

    Oh, sounds perfect. Your point about beutiful hardbacks and children’s books is so true. They are definitely the future for book shops. The wood burning stove sounds delightful! Comfy sofas are a must for me!
    Thanks for the great blog post.