Authors share their favourite bookshops for Bookshop Day

  • Posted 07/10/2017

Authors share their favourite bookshops for Bookshop Day

To celebrate bookshops and Bookshop Day, HarperCollins authors Angela Clarke, Judy Leigh and Sue Moorcroft share their favourite bookshops. 

Angela Clarke:

I don’t live in Sevenoaks, I don’t even live in Kent, and yet I find myself constantly drawn to Sevenoaks Bookshop. A good bookshop will do that to you. Full disclosure, I know Fleur who works there, and first visited when, newly hired on the tills, she invited me to give a talk at the creative writing group the shop hosts. That’s another sign of a good bookshop: it engages with the community. Sevenoaks hold classes, festivals, signings. Their staff are passionate, their window displays works of art (often literally; they once hired illustrator Kate McEwen to design one). They even have a shop Morris Minor, a natty heritage blue number, straight from the pages of a Quentin Blake illustrated Roald Dahl story, that whizzes staff and guests round, and pops up on their Instagram.They’re doing indies proud.
We all know books are magical. They soothe us, make us laugh, make us cry. And as much as they help us escape this world, they also illuminate it. When times are hard, you can slip between the pages of a book and find peace. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about. The comforting weight of a book in your hand, it’s scent. We’re all book people. We’re passionate about it. I remember my first tentative steps into an indie, one sadly long gone now. It was years before I started writing, before I made countless friends in the publishing industry, before I filled my address book and life with writers and readers and words. But it was a great moment of peace. A recognition. Standing in my first indie book shop I knew I’d found my people. I felt like I belonged. It’s a notion that works anywhere in the world. Wherever I’m a stranger, if I find an independent bookstore, I’m no longer alone.

Sevenoaks has gently curved, oak shelving, as if the building itself breathed in the smell of all those glorious books, and is caught in a perpetual exhaled sigh of contentment. It was founded in 1948 by the delightfully named Basil Krisch, in 1985 it passed to Winifred Scott, in 2000 to Valerie Glencross and Sarah Webb-Wilson, and in 2015 my friend Fleur, whose passion soon over-spilled her part-time role, became the new owner. Each owner has understood that a bookstore is more than simply a business. You have to choose the one you pass the torch on to carefully. Because like books themselves, we’re really only ever looking after an indie bookstore for the next generation.

Follow Angela on Twitter @TheAngelaClarke

Judy Leigh:

I have three favourite bookshops.

Waterstones in Truro, where my friend Sarah works, is visually stunning, with displays of fiction and non-fiction. Everything is so thoughtfully laid out that I always spend an entire month’s allowance on must-have books. There are all sorts of extras from cards to a coffee shop and a comfortable reading area. Visits by authors, complete with wine and cake, demonstrate the management’s desire to fuse literature and the senses.

I love the Waterstones next to the London School of Economics in Portugal Street, London. There are books on philosophy and politics which demand to be owned, picked up and read, but there is also so much more, from poetry to theatre, which I always have to buy.

The third bookshop has recently closed. A second-hand back-street dive in Ashburton, Devon, on four floors, smelt divinely of dust and of the many readers who’d owned and touched each text, and you could buy pristine rare novels, foreign language copies, collectable Art books and battered old favourites. It was kept by an old gentleman who looked as if he’d stepped from a Dickens tale and it epitomised the lifelong legacy of owning and reading treasured books.

Follow Judy on Twitter @JudyLeighWriter

Sue Moorcroft

Coming from an army family I didn't live in the UK much until I was eight. In my eyes one of the few advantages to coming 'home' was the discovery of shops that existed only to sell books. This was a great improvement on a couple of shelves at the NAAFI! Pocket money was allotted according to age in my family but mine was also linked to the price of books. Every time the cost of a new Enid Blyton or Tove Jansson rose higher than my weekly allowance I’d have a quiet word with Dad and the balance would be restored. (My brothers didn’t mind as theirs would go up in line with mine.)
I’ve grown up seeing bookshops as friendly places where I can access my great love – reading – full of people just like me – readers! Staff members are happy to share their knowledge of books and writers and any bookshop is an ideal place to relax, browse and to buy gifts.

Follow Sue on Twitter @SueMoorcroft