Our authors share their favourite independent bookshops
Independent Bookshop Week runs from Saturday 17 – Saturday 24 June. And who better to recommend the nation's best bookish boltholes than some bestselling authors?
In a world of same-day deliver, Ubers, endless notifications and clashing calendars, independent bookshops offer a unique sanctuary. While they each have their own personality, niche specialities and sense of style, they share the uncanny ability to absorb us completely – and of course, that all-important 'book smell'.
A chance to talk to real people about the books you love. Recommendations from booksellers that are passionate about literature. Discovering books you might not have otherwise, and all the while supporting our high streets and local businesses. Indie bookshops sit at the core of our communities. We asked some of our authors to share their favourite independent bookshops with us to inspire your next trip.
Jessie Burton: Bookseller Crow, Crystal Palace, London
'My favourite indie bookshop is Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace. It's where I did my first ever event as an author and Jonathan, the owner, was so welcoming. They have an amazing roster of authors coming to talk about their books, they are down to earth and passionate about bookselling and good writing, and I am lucky to have them on my doorstep.'
Kate Mosse: Mr B's Books Emporium, Bath
'There are so many amazing indies, but I have a particular soft spot for Mr B's in Bath. Tiny, but packing a big book-sized punch, I love all the additional elements to the bookselling such as (in the old days) doing an event with The Bookshop Band, their reading subscription service, and the fact that – even if an author turns up unannounced with a Sharpie in hand to sign copies of their book – they are always welcoming.'
Mr B's Books Emporium, Bath
Neema Shah: another vote for Mr B's Books Emporium, Bath
'This extraordinary bookshop brings to life all the magic and wonder of reading. Set across three floors, this beautiful reading labyrinth features a three-dimensional magical tree in the children’s section, sweet little park benches for seating and a claw-foot bath full of books – because why the hell not? Don’t be fooled though, this is definitely not a case of style over substance. The shelves feature dozens of staff recommendations and the team are friendly and knowledgeable.'
Ann Cleeves: Forum Books, Corbridge
'Forum is a delightful shop. It's moved from a rather cramped building to a converted chapel, light and airy, with space for events. But it’s the people who make it special. Helen and her team are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and they have the ability to make everyone, regular readers and occasional browsers, feel welcome. They’re huge supporters of local authors and have come with me to sell in libraries, in a working men’s club, in an ice cream parlour on the coast and in Alnwick Castle! They’ve even allowed me to put them in a Vera short story.'
Amelia Abraham: Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston, London
'Burley Fisher Books in Haggerston is one of my favourite bookshops. I, of course, love Gay’s the Word in Bloomsbury for its incredible range of queer books, but became very attached to Burley Fisher the year I was writing my own book, as it was fairly local, has a very calm cafe in the back where I could write, and the staff were always up for a books-related chat to distract me from what I was supposed to be doing. I've bought many books there, ranging from Olivia Sudjic's Exposure (at her launch event there) to some bargain £1 Penguin Moderns (like James Baldwin's Dark Days and Andy Warhol's Fame). Their excellent newsletter also keeps me up to date with new releases.'
Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston, London
Kiran Millwood Hargrave: Liznojan Books, Tiverton, Devon
'Impossible to choose just one, but if pressed I would say my favourite independent bookshop is Liznojan Books in Tiverton, Devon. I've long enjoyed online recommendations from mother-and-daughter team Jackie and Kayleigh, but earlier this year I finally visited in person and what a haven! A carefully curated yet generous selection of stories for all ages, with Jackie and Kayleigh always on hand for suggestions. Beautiful artwork adorns the walls, and next door is a lovely cafe serving vegan and organic treats. It’s a place you can browse for hours, but you will always find something to take home.'
Liznojan Books, Tiverton, Devon
Olivia Gordon: The Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill, London
'Having children has given me the chance to rediscover my old favourite children’s books with them – and of course, discover new ones – and this is the perfect shop for finding new and old favourites. It has a wide range, knowledgeable staff and a friendly atmosphere. Handily, it’s also opposite Muswell Hill Bookshop, another great independent bookshop, so adults and children can all have a good browse.'
The Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill, London
Julian Gough: Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Galway, Ireland
'This magnificent independent bookshop in the windswept west of Ireland is hardly a secret; it just won Irish Bookshop of the Year at the Nibbies. But I’ve been a fan ever since it opened, thirty years ago, in a much smaller premises, across the road from the enormous current one. Charlie, the eponymous owner, is a quiet, modest man; the manager, Vinnie Browne is a far louder and more exuberant character. New visitors to the shop often, therefore, assume Vinnie must be the owner, and so Vinnie now answers as easily to Charlie as Vinnie. Every year, the shop seems to grow, taking over yet another neighbouring space, like some sea creature whose shell expands chamber by chamber. You could get lost in it; you could live in it. I have often fantasised about doing just that. Its tremendous range of new and second-hand books is brilliantly curated, it has kindly, knowledgeable staff, and is perhaps my favourite place on earth. Back when Galway was cheap, and I lived above a butcher’s, in a meat locker that had been converted into a bedsit (yes, there was a reason Galway was cheaper back then . . . ), I consistently spent more time in Charlie Byrnes than I did in my flat, and more money on books than I did on rent. Those Galway years made me a writer; I am profoundly grateful to Charlie Byrne’s, my second home.'
Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Galway, Ireland
Peter James: City Books, Brighton
'What I love about City Books is both their passion not just for books but for their authors. Paul and Inge Sweetman were among the very first booksellers to realize that what would set them apart from the big chains and supermarkets would be their ability to organize a constant stream of author events and they have worked tirelessly and brilliantly at this throughout the many years I’ve been fortunate to know them and to be stocked by them. Not only is it my favourite bookshop, it is also Roy Grace’s and he frequently pops in there to buy a book for himself or Cleo, and just like me, when he does, he never comes out with just one book, but an entire armful. I just hope Paul and Inge know I will never allow them to retire – and nor will Roy!'
Rebecca Cobb: Falmouth Bookseller, Falmouth, Cornwall
'I love how unique and diverse all the wonderful independent bookshops that I’ve visited are but I’d have to choose Falmouth Bookseller because of the personal connection I have with it.
After graduating from university I got a part time job in the clothes shop directly opposite Falmouth Bookseller, where I would gaze across the street at their window full of beautiful books and dream that there might one day be a book that I had illustrated among their displays. I found out that Ron, the owner of the bookshop was also a publisher and after continuing to work on my portfolio, showing him my work and painting window displays, he commissioned me to illustrate a series of picture books written by Helen Dunmore. It was several more years before I had enough illustration work for it to become my full time job and there were certainly moments when I almost gave up, but I really believe that Falmouth Bookseller and Ron were a big part of helping me keep going during that time and I will always be hugely grateful to them for that.'
Falmouth Bookseller, Falmouth, Cornwall
Simon Winder: Atkinson-Pryce Books, Biggar, South Lanarkshire
'I love Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswell’s, and those two equally magnificent Bath rivals Mr. B’s Emporium and Topping & Company. But if for some weird reason I really had to choose one independent it would probably be Atkinson-Pryce Books in Biggar, South Lanarkshire. I have never been in a more perfectly designed bookshop, with a lovely integration of the books themselves and various bold and charming artworks. The books are everywhere, somehow all folded into an incredibly small place, like a ship’s cabin. I did an event there recently and by the end was trying to work out how I could relocate my family to Biggar. It was like being given a brief glimpse of an ideal place and then being cruelly chucked back into London.'
Naomi Wood: The Book Hive, Norwich
'It's not every day that you walk into your local bookshop and a starry writer like Megan Bradbury advises you on which new novel to pick up. But that's what Norwich’s Book Hive offers. It's a magical little place, with a beautiful curved glass front, tasteful green awnings, and creaking floors. It’s beloved by me - for their literary picks of the weird and wonderful - as well as my daughter, who loves their kids' section too. All of Norwich’s readers and writers come here to chat books with the booksellers – Henry, Joe and Megan. (And there are so many writers here! Is this city the Hollywood of the Novel?!) I suppose that’s what makes it not so much a shop, as a hive, as the name suggests.'