Saturday, 7 May 2011

Books Afloat - Weymouth


It took me a while to find this shop. Located in Park Street, it’s rather at the back of the all the main shops and streets of the town that’s not quite ready for the Olympics. 
     I stepped in – had I stumbled into Aladdin’s Cave? As soon as you walk into Books Afloat the main theme of the shop hits you like a crashing wave – everything screams the sea –  you practically trip on  a model ship (for sale) that guards the door, as well as the other boating memorabilia that invades you gaze, as well as the stacks and stacks of books. This shop is more like a treasure trove – hanging off every available wall space, including the ceiling, a whole paraphernalia of different objects, plates, figures, flags – and everything is for sale. 

     I headed through the labyrinth of shelves to the ‘Hobbies and Crafts’ section, and although it seemed to have every single hobby and craft under the sun, it didn’t have anything about bookbinding.  The bookman in the shop was tucked into a cubby-hole type desk, framed by china hanging off hooks. It always amazes me when you ask a bookshop keeper for a certain book, and they seem to know automatically if they have it or not.
     At the back of the shop there are more objects, but I didn’t look around here too much. There was good selection of old Penguins nestled among all the objects, brightening the room considerably.

     Whole dinner sets were for sale, miniature boat figures abound. As you walk up the stairs you are surrounded by flags draped over the banister, heavy nautical-looking objects jostling for space with your feet on the stairs, and old wooden wheels. You get the distinct feeling, when climbing up the stairs, that you are actually stepping into a maritime museum. On the landing, a muddled display of even more flags, more model boats and more wheels just emphasise this feeling. That, and the various navy uniforms (for sale) hanging off the door handles.
     Books are never far away. The room at the top of the stairs is stacked with books – nautically themed, all of them – and the model boats and other maritime objects are swimming in them. there’s an entire wall dedicated to Nelson and the British Navy.

First time I've seen a lecturer's book

As I navigated my way through the narrow corridors, the sense of this place being a museum never left me. And in the front room, books are shoved to the corners to make way for painting of boats, a table weighted down with piles of dinner plates, and a whole get up of boaty objects with a steering wheel attached to it – as if you were to hold the steering wheel, you could sail the entire bookshop. 

     By this point I was getting incredibly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of – dare I say – junk that scattered crowded the rooms and positively drowned the books. A junkshop, a bookshop, a museum, Books Afloat is considerably muddled, all the objects and books jostling for attention, clamouring in vain to be brought. The shop itself was wonderfully unique and had a fantastic atmosphere, charming, and very entrancing. It’s definitely the kind of shop that a naval fanatic would absolutely adore. Everything, except maybe the fixtures and fittings, was for sale. An Aladdin’s Cave. Maybe the Olympics will see the shop welcome the attention it deserves. The books in this shop were most certainly afloat amongst it all. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Imagine Books - Weymouth

Imagine Books is located in perhaps the most desirable street for housing quirky and interesting shops – St Alban’s Street, known fondly by the locals ‘Flag Street’, according to the multicoloured flags on the bunting that is strewn from shop to shop like dew-caught spider-webs on a frosty autumn morning. The Flagman (I forget his name) must have done a roaring trade for the Royal Wedding.


The bookshop is quite modern and stylish. I especially like to see outside a bookshop a tray of books. It says to the passer by, ‘You are completely welcome to peruse all in this tray, and you will find even more delights inside’.

 Delights inside there certainly were. The first thing that hits you upon walking into the shop is the smell – a smell of incense and candles to have a relaxing bath with. Not that this smell is distracting or misplaced – as well as incense, statuettes of fairies and other such souvenirs were offered for sale, complimenting the aura and the taste of the shop. There were books to match. The first room had a good stock of new books, several about health and wellbeing, and a book of ‘spells’ for girls, as well As heavy interest in local publications and maritime interests. Of course, I couldn’t deny that in perhaps every shop I was set to visit there would be a heavy nautical section. The new books for sale here include Wordsworth Classics and little Beatrix Potter’s.

I drooled over the small antiquarian cabinet in the first room. Among the gorgeously desirable old and pricey rare children’s books were more figurines of fairies. 

A door opened out onto a small courtyard, a chance to sit and reflect – surrounded by the rooms full of books.

The ‘corridor’ linking the first room and the back room of the shop announced the second-hand book section in all its glory. The walls were lined with shelves of books, accompanied by friendly signs guiding people through the wide variety of subjects they had stacked on the shelves, including transport, culture, DIY, and classics. I searched in vain to find a DIY bookbinding book, but alas, nothing came up, apart from a two paged reference to bookbinding in a huge manual of English trade crafts. 

The final room was snuggled into the back of the shop. Here, history, fiction, and children’s. I was delighted to find that there were several Hornblower books for sale. For older books in the children’s sections choice was limited – just a couple of pretty looking books, and a good pile of old annuals and magazines.

The second hand books have been well chosen, offering a decent browse, many of the books not what you might call ‘books you typically find in a charity shop,’ a sign of the consideration the owners take into stocking their shelves. Also dotted around the shelves were stacks of old magazines and comics – I can imagine this would the perfect kind of shop for a comic book geek. 

Imagine Books is a wonderful shop, the kind of place I could spend hours in. Although some people may think the combination of selling incense and books may be strange to some people, I think it is a good sign of the initiative an owner must take when running a bookshop – in today’s climate, it is very difficult to keep on running a bookshop – it must expand and have multiple sources of interest. The comic books and the various figurines are a reflection of the owner’s tastes, and it gives the shop really character, the smells inviting you in and the quirky decorations making the bookshop that little bit more special. Staff are friendly and well informed. In fact, if I hadn’t asked the woman there about bookshops in Weymouth I would have been on a wild goose chase trying to find the two other bookshops that no longer exist. Imagine Books is a strong, unique shop that I hope will carry on for a good while.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Bookroom, Yarmouth Isle of Wight

A small but cosy shop, with a wide selection of subjects, including  local and maritime interests. It’s a good second hand bookshop, and you can usually find something that would interest you. Usually reasonable prices, some of the rarer books cost about £25, for example, the first editions. The two chaps that man the shop are jolly and eager to recommend a book and give lots of relevant advice. They will also buy your old books from you.

     My favourite sections in this small shop are the great selections of really old Penguins, the beautiful volumes in the poetry section, and most of all, the children’s section. I used to pick up countless Point Horrors here. Most recently, I have discovered my love for very old fairytale books. The shop has several desirable Andrew Lang books with beautiful covers and generally I want them all.

     It was Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book that was my greatest purchase from this shop. I love old books, and this definitely was an old book. Compared to the other Andrew Lang books, this book cost £10 compared to about £25. The book man explained to me that because after recent repairs the title page and the copyright page were lost, and therefore it is pretty much impossible to figure out what edition the book may be. There’s a strong chance it is first edition – I’ve seen Lang’s book online selling for over £100 so it was a definite bargain! I could hardly contain my excitement as I slipped it out of the paper bag and turned the pages. It is an amazing book, and I love thinking that maybe a hundred years ago other people would have enjoyed it and treasured it as much as I am. 

      I think this shows the absolute dedication of The Bookroom to stock their shelves with something that someone might treasure.