Local Bookshops

I recently posted the obligatory picture of this year’s Christmas tree on Twitter and Martin Winter kindly replied, admiring my bookshelves. We then had a brief exchange of tweets about our love of physical books and it brought back some wonderful memories.

I have always loved reading and so have my family. All of the family homes I lived in had at a wall in a room which was covered in bookcases stuffed full of books. It’s a tradition I am delighted to continue and hope to do so in as may houses that I can.

I also grew up in the days before the internet and specifically the days before Amazon. The first decade or so of my life preceded book ‘superstores’ such as Waterstone’s and so small, independent, local bookshops were a regular shopping destination and one in particular has wonderful memories.

I grew up in Formby and nearby Southport had an almost magical bookshop called Broadhursts. It was spread over several floors and the rooms in each floor were stuffed floor-to-ceiling with books. That alone created a special feel to the shop but in the winter a coal fire would be roaring at the back of the shop and next to it would be an almost impossibly old man (at least to someone aged seven). In hindsight I imagine, actually hope, that this was Charles Broadhurst who set up the shop in 1926. It gave the whole shop a very homely, welcoming feel and is, based on the photos on their web site, something that is still lit, albeit with Mr Broadhurst sadly missing. The icing on the cake was that your purchases would be beautifully wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. It was all simply wonderful and writing about it made me check that the shop still exists and I now want to go and visit old school friends and visit the shop again.

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s we’ve seen big bookshop chains spring up and become common before some, such as Borders, fell to the might of Amazon and other on-line stores. We’ve seen the rise of eBooks and eInk devices and I am myself a convert to those, loving my Kindle and my iPad as reading and reference devices. However, despite this, independent bookshops have survived and that is something that makes me very happy.

One of the small pleasures in my life is finding an excuse to divert my daughter into our local independent book shop, Hunting Raven Books in Frome when we are out shopping. It’s a lovely shop but it’s not quite in the same league as Broadhursts (I doubt that many places are) but it is full of wonderful books, has a great children’s section and is staffed by friendly, endlessly patient, helpful and knowledgable people. Books are suggested and out of stock titles are ordered overnight when possible. Yes, the books can be more expensive than they might be on Amazon but maybe that’s a price worth paying to partaking of a small, simple pleasure and passing that on to younger, technologically blasé generations. Supporting local businesses and local people definitely is.

Maybe in 20 or 30 years I’ll be lucky enough to retire from a career of working in technology and run my own version of Broadhursts and pass some magical memories on myself. Whether or not I actually do, I sincerely hope that local bookshops are still a part of our lives and not something we can only vaguely remember.