May 13, 2008

A small death

We all have our favourite haunts. One of mine was Unsworth's Bookshop, on the Euston Road just opposite the British Library. It was a bookshop which sold excellent academic books for cheap prices- I remember getting Kevin Sharpe's Personal Rule of Charles I for a fiver for example- and was one of my favourite places to go to in London when I felt my purse needed lightening: or rather it was one of the most dangerous places for me in London as when I visited I couldn't leave without spending at least twenty pounds that I didn't have! Well its closed or it has been replaced by a poorer bookseller whose range isn't as good.

Good second hand bookshops are not ten a penny- I am lucky enough to know another one in London (My Back Pages, just opposite Balham Tube, if you are ever in Balham it is a must visit, I know another one whose name I have forgotten in Clapham that always have interesting books on offer!) but they are being replaced by discount shops who specialise in remainders of Frank Lampard's biography for fifty pence. There are other good bookshops around- Foyles in central London is a great place- but if there is one cause I think we should all turn to its supporting our local bookshop. There is something special about a good bookshop- the experience of browsing in a shop is totally different to doing it online- and to be good a bookshop needs to have the ability to be browsable- to have a good selection. They need to provoke you to want to read something- I often spend time looking for things in bookshops that I don't know I will find, just scanning across the titles and picking out interesting ones- looking at the authors to check their credentials and the acknowledgements page and then considering whether to read it or not. I like places that are eccentric- where you can see a particular interest in the seller reflected in the books he or she sells. The kind of shop where you can do that is the kind of shop that needs protecting and preserving- unfortunately more and more bookshops are going down the best seller route (witness the Books Etc near Victoria whose selection of classic novels can only be described as looking like a flower wilting without water or attention!) but they needn't: we ought to vote with our feet. Time to support good bookshops- afterall we'd miss them if they all vanished.

6 comments:

Dave Cole said...

Unsworth's Antiquarian Booksellers are now based in Foyle's on the Charing Cross Road.

xD.

Phil A said...

Yes, try Charing X Rd, there are still some second hand bookshops on the left side heading towards Trafalgar Sq

James Hamilton said...

And a quick plug for the London Review Bookshop next to Truckles Wine Bar in Bloomsbury... and the Queens Park bookshop in Salusbury Road, which has the best stock for a place of its size that I've ever seen.

In general, I've begun to regard both Books Etc and Waterstones as dead men walking - and, should Foyles do a Dillons and overexpand, I'd fear for them too, although they seem OK for now. I'm just glad to be able to remember Waterstones when it was new.

Lil Jimmy said...

Good second hand bookshops are not ten a penny...

They most cdertainly are rare and especially if the owner is really connected with what he/she has in stock. A pleasure form the past for me.

Sean Jeating said...

Ha, Tiberius, local bookshops!
Wherever I'd visit a bookshop in x-City or y-town and were to find an interesting title I'd resist the wish 'to immediately have it' but jot author, title and ISBN, and order it in my (little) local bookshop.

Anonymous said...

You prob know by now that Unsworths are now in St Martin's Ct near Leicester Square. So they're within walking distance of Henry Pordes books on Charing X rd which is v good. Waterstones at Goodge St has a very good secondhand/remainder section: art academic etc