January 25, 2012

The fifty best bookshops in England, Scotland and Wales


Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, in Bath

A treat for readers in the UK: on Friday The Independent published its list of the fifty best bookshops in the land, picked by the following literary bigwigs:

Chris Conway, MD of The Book Partnership

Sara Sheridan, a historical novelist

Lisa Campbell, Retail Reporter for The Bookseller

Rebecca Swift, director of The Literary Consultancy (and MobyLives interviewee)

Olivia Cole, literary editor of GQ magazine

The experts’ recurring justifications for their selections are, as you might expect: engagement with the local community; fun and varied events, featuring plenty of local authors; passionate, informed, approachable staff; a thoughtfully curated selection, often featuring specialist and always local-interest titles; and… cake. We’ve said it time and again here on Moby, but these are the sorts of services that we stand to lose in these troubling times for booksellers. It’s interesting that the selection wasn’t specific to indies, as lists of this type often are: two Waterstones branches find their way on there, though notably not the flagship store on Regent Street, this losing out in London to the Gower Street branch, serving University College London and the users of the University of London’s Senate House Library, and so packed out with a fantastic selection across its enormous space.

What do MobyLives readers think? Are there any gems that the panel have missed? In London, I’d have liked to have seen mentions of the wonderful Clerkenwell Tales, and Review in Peckham. It’s also a surprise to see that Charing Cross Road Foyles doesn’t make the cut, especially now that foreign-language specialists Grant and Cutler can be found in the shop. Any more suggestions or recommendations? The comments section is all yours.

Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.