9 brilliant UK bookshops – as chosen by our authors

The author Neil Gaiman once said ‘A town isn’t a town without a bookstore’ and we couldn’t agree more. For any booklover, browsing shelves of new releases with a knowledgeable bookseller on hand for recommendations is a true pleasure — and the local bookshop a sanctuary that’s hard to be without. In celebration of the best bookshops the UK has to offer, we asked eight of our authors to tell us about their favourite bookshop and what keeps them coming back.

Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop as chosen by John Darlington

“My choice is Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop in the heart of the English Lake District. I love that it is rooted in place: tiny, but filled with Wainwright’s Guides, Wordsworth, Bragg and Ransome alongside maps, children’s books and contemporary authors. Just what you need in front of a log fire when the inevitable Lakeland mist (AKA rain) arrives.”

John Darlington is the author of Fake Heritage: Why We Rebuild Monuments.

Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop
Central Buildings, Ambleside
Cumbria, LA22 9BS

Chorleywood Bookshop as chosen by Helen Fry

“My favourite independent bookshop is the Chorleywood Bookshop because they support readers and authors with such engaging events and talks. I also love its quirky displays which have been clearly thought-out with devotion and care. The staff are always welcoming with their big smiles. They convey their passion for books.”

Helen Fry is a specialist in the history of British Intelligence and the author of MI9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two.

Chorleywood Bookshop
4 New Parade, Chorleywood
Rickmansworth, WD3 5NJ

Aldeburgh Bookshop as chosen by Kasia Boddy

“Where would I like to be right now? By the sea. Or in a bookshop. Or, ideally, in the seaside Aldeburgh Bookshop, picking through its wonderfully eclectic offerings. The Bookshop also had a nice connection to my book Blooming Flowers as it’s built on the site of the birthplace of the eighteenth-century poet George Crabbe who wrote so evocatively of the attempt of local farmers to eradicate the poppies whose beauty only served to ‘mock the hope of toil’.”

Kasia Boddy teaches American literature at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Blooming Flowers: A Seasonal History of Plants and People.

Aldeburgh Bookshop
42 High St, Aldeburgh
Suffolk IP15 5AB

Cover to Cover as chosen by Rebecca Clifford

“My favourite book shop is Cover to Cover, which is, I believe, the only independent book shop in all of Swansea — but is just a few minutes’ walk from my house. I’ve spent many happy mornings with my kids in the children’s section, ‘tasting’ the flavour of different books before deciding which one to buy and lovingly carry home (but we don’t actually lick them).”

Rebecca Clifford is associate professor of modern European history at Swansea University and author of Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust.

Cover to Cover
58 Newton Road, Mumbles
Swansea, SA3 4BQ

Chipping Norton
Jaffé and Neale as chosen by John Carey

“The best independent bookshop I know is Jaffé and Neale, overlooking the market place in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It is more of a cultural centre than just a bookshop. People flock in, and you are encouraged to browse, without anyone hassling you. A lot of buying goes on, though, because the new book tables are cleverly stocked with titles irresistible to local readers. There’s a little tearoom upstairs and coffee tables on the ground floor and outside on the terrace. and a separate, invitingly decorated, children’s section. There are regular book signings and a book group meets on the first Wednesday of each month.”

John Carey is emeritus professor at Oxford and author of A Little History of Poetry.

Jaffé and Neale
1 Middle Row, Chipping Norton,
Oxfordshire, OX7 5NH

Blackwell’s Broad Street as chosen by Fabrizio Nevola

“I have always loved Blackwell’s on Broad Street – first as a student, then while I lived and worked nearby, and more recently whenever I can get back. Browsing the shelves – especially the underground Norrington rooms where social sciences are – always make for surprise encounters, some of which have shaped entire strands of my own research.”

Fabrizio Nevola is professor of art history and visual culture at the University of Exeter and author of Street Life in Renaissance Italy.

48-51 Broad Street
Oxford, OX1 3BQ

Red Lion Books as chosen by Bill Hayton

Red Lion Books in Colchester is everything a local bookshop should be: friendly, expert and happy to help. Two floors of well-chosen stock plus some local arts and crafts. The staff support local book clubs and introduce new writers from the local to the global.”

Bill Hayton is an associate fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House and a journalist with BBC World News. He is the author of  The Invention of China.

Red Lion Books
125 High Street
Colchester CO1 1SZ

The Suffolk Anthology as chosen by Roger Crowley

The Suffolk Anthology in the Suffolks area of Cheltenham is small but perfectly formed. Run by the enterprising Helene, it has that bookshop magic – well-chosen stock, friendly staff, cake and coffee – the sort of place to make you feel better. Downstairs there’s a cosy space to host book groups and run events. Giving talks there to the shop’s loyal and knowledgeable audience is a writer’s reward.”

Roger Crowley is a best-selling narrative historian. His most recent book is Accursed Tower: The Crusaders’ Last Battle for the Holy Land.

The Suffolk Anthology
17 Suffolk Parade
Cheltenham GA50 2AE

Topping & Company as chosen by Andrew Pettegree

“I knew Robert Topping from his Bath bookshop, an astonishing range of well-chosen new titles and a deep backlist. So when I discovered that Topping & Company was opening a shop in St Andrews I knew it would trasnform our cultural life, as it has. Regular author events, a literary festival, a young, well-read staff: a great place to spend an hour and never come away empty-handed.”

Andrew Pettegree is professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews and director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue.

Topping & Company Booksellers
7 Greyfriars Garden
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9HG

If you can’t visit your local bookshop we’ve got you covered! Bookshop.org is a new online retail platform with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Launching in the UK in Autumn 2020, all book sales made through its site will directly benefit independent bookshops.

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