Thursday, 24 May 2012

The best bookshop in Britain?


I have a list of criteria for the perfect secondhand bookshop:
- squishy armchairs and sofas on which to curl up and read;
- good fiction stock, in paperback;
- wide range of interesting non-fiction;
- even though I'm phobic about dogs and allergic to cats, a shop pet;
- open fire or log burner warming the space;
- friendly proprietors.

It's actually really hard to find a bookshop which ticks all my boxes, but the Astley Book Farm (just outside Bedworth in Warwickshire) does so in spades.  When the owners say 'book farm,' they mean it literally, the shop being a collection old barns and farm buildings on the estate where (impeccable literary credentials for a bookshop) novelist George Eliot was born. 
It's a maze of a place: higgledy piggledy rooms with uneven floors and wide wooden shelves holding a wide collection of non-fiction and, winning major points from me, an incredibly eclectic fiction selection.  Everything from literary fiction and prize winners, to cult novels, romance, crime, thrillers, classics... a choice so wide that even my mum and I (with enormous libraries at home) are always able to find new books to buy.  There's even a children's section built into the cosy hayloft, which makes a wonderful place to revisit childhood favourites or entertain small people of your acquaintance.

Minutes off Junction 3 of the M6, Astley Book Farm would make the perfect place to stop for a coffee (they've just opened a lovely-looking cafe selling locally-made cake) and a browse: loads better than a horrible service station. 


  1. It really is a lovely place, if you're ever down in this neck of the woods it's well worth a visit.

  2. Sounds lovely! If you're more south-easterly, Mr Books bookshop in Tonbridge is a real treat. Before you step inside Mr Books shop, you sense the magic of the place. The window looks fantastic and you can see the books rising from the floor to the high ceiling. Once inside, the range of books is enormous and the owner himself is really helpful and knowledgeable. He's even been known to make customers a cup of tea! A truly lovely bookish escape from the anonymity and blandness of so many modern bookshops.

    1. Ooh, that sounds absolutely lovely! I've never been to Tonbridge but can see it becoming a destination of choice...

  3. Ooh looks amazing - might be worth a little weekend trip very soon!

    Have you visited the bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland?

    It's a converted station - complete with a cafe in the waiting room! (Does require a bit of a trek up North though!)


    1. I love Barter Books in Alnwick, such a lovely use of the building. Last time I went I only bought one book though; their selection isn't always wide enough for my tastes (or my already-packed bookshelves!)