Yesterday, 10 lovers of books congregated in a slightly damp Bath for the Bath Bookshop Crawl, organised by the wonderful Bex @ Armchair by the Sea (also of Ninja Book Swap fame). The trains were running a bit late so I missed the first stop which was Good Buy Books. Well I did go in the shop very briefly and saw no one was there and backed out again. Fortunately as I was walking towards the Guildhall Market I spotted a bunch of familiar looking tote bags…attached to familiar looking people.
The market has lots of great stalls to look at and we were briefly distracted by tea and cheese and other nice things before turning the corner to find Skoobs. This stall reminds me of my own bookshelves as so many were double stacked. There’s a real feeling of rummaging around to uncover some hidden gems. Katie very enthusiastically pointed out all her favourite fantasy and horror. There is a really great selection so something for everyone and as it’s second hand, there were some bargains to be found.
I picked up Ten by Gretchen McNeil which has been on my wishlist for years and I’m not sure it’s even had a UK release. the premise reminds me of Point Horror with a bunch of teenagers stuck on an island in a storm, with them being picked off one by one. I also found a blue Penguin Classics version of The Midwich Cuckoos for our Wyndham collection.
Next stop was Waterstones who very kindly offered us a free lunch. We were asked if we were famous so we hope they weren’t disappointed that we weren’t a group of Zoellas! However we were waited on hand and foot by a member of staff who fed us yummy sandwiches and cake as well as drinks. When we first saw the table we were so excited as they’d put out waters jugs with fresh strawberries and mint in, all laid out in the cook books section.
Recently I’ve noticed Waterstones have lost their Costas and have been putting in their own Cafe Ws and from what I’ve seen so far, that can only be a good thing. Food was so much better than anything I’ve had in a Costa (and coffee was good too). Going in, Bex had said we wouldn’t need the full two hours there however they sucked us in and we went well over our allotted time slot.
The shop is laid out with a lot of (very interesting sounding) non-fiction at the front and plenty of fiction on the rest of the ground floor. There were so many books I wanted but I was mindful that we had several other shops to visit. They have a really good graphic novel section and I wish I’d bought more from there, but at the time I thought I’d see some of them again in the independent shops later. I was happy to see several Shutes on the shelves and picked up No Highway, about a mysterious plane crash and the man who investigates it has interest in both quantum mechanics and spiritualism.
I noticed the group were seeming to hang round the sci-fi and fantasy sections a fair bit and there was a lot of recommending going on. I’m not sure Katie found any new victims to sell Angry Planet to but she did try! There was some discussion going on about Catherynne M. Valente at one of the tables and as Radiance is now out in paperback I grabbed a copy of that too.
The young adult tables were mostly loaded with books I’d already read but I was happy to find they still had the special Waterstones editions of The Square Root of Summer with the sprayed edges, so I added that to my modest pile.
With a tummies full and our bags starting to get heavy, we moved onto Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, a shop many of us were exciting about visiting as we’d heard so much about it. It always seems to pop up in contemporary books set in Bath and its website is well worth a visit. The shop is highly curated, meaning it’s a great place to discover books but maybe not so good if you are after something in particular. Fortunately, there were plenty of books I’d loved on their tables, so I felt I could trust their judgement.
The decor is fantastic, with a Chris Riddell toilet downstairs, tote bags on the ceiling, a wall papered with Tintin comics, Scrabble tile coasters and some regal looking armchairs. The shop is quite small so wasn’t the best place for a big group of us. I believe they cultivate a peaceful place to discover books and sit down and read, so maybe a better place to visit by yourself.
I picked up one book off the shelves of staff current reads, Zero K by Don DeLillo, an author I’ve been interested in reading for a while but not a book I’d heard of before. They also had a small selection of graphic novels upstairs and I bought Pyongyang by Guy Delisle which I hope will be enlightening.
With everyone laden down a little bit more we headed round the corner to Topping & Company (everything is so close in Bath). The first thing I noticed when walking through the door were the bookshelf ladders, which you can use to reach the high shelves…if you’re brave enough. Or a member of staff will help. I don’t think any of us actually went up them, but it was tempting.
Topping is full to the brim of fascinating sounding non-fiction and I could have so easy bought armfuls of the stuff in there. But if you’re into fiction, keep going into this deceptively large shop to find it, including lots of signed copies. A lot of their books are wrapped in cellophane but we think this has a lot to do with them offering browsers free cups of tea and choccie biscuits. It was a great place to rest a while, whilst still book shopping. Apologies to anyone trying to view the travel section as we kind of set up camp there for a while.
Lots of the group bought books here but the fiction selection wasn’t quite as inspiring for me personally as the other shops. Their non-fiction offerings more than made up for it and I was tempted by some of the little Penguins they had at the back.
We had a few minutes left at the end of the day to visit American Dream Comics, which is quite hard to find as it’s upstairs via a small doorway. I was hoping to buy Josh some American candy here but they’ve stopped selling it as they can’t compete with other places. The shop has a lot of space given over to Pop Vinyl figures but does have a wall of the latest single editions of comics as well as a section for trades. It’s not really a destination shop but definitely good for comic loving locals who want to support an independent retailer. I finally got my chance to pick up the first volume of The Wicked and the Divine too.
I had to run off at this point to get my train but the others went on for a post-crawl chat in a pub owned by a friend. I believe the grand total books purchased was 76 which isn’t a bad effort. I’m really looking forward to the next crawl which will be in London (probably February). If you’re interested in coming then do follow Bex on Twitter. You can also check out the #BathBookshopCrawl hashtag to see what everyone else got.
I wish I’d headed in a bit earlier as there were plenty of non-bookish shops I also fancied popping into but I honestly wasn’t feeling that well thanks to the Nine Worlds plague I was carrying (sorry folks). I’d definitely go back in non-tourist season!