Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Bookstore, and A Giveaway

My Bookstore

Closing the door to the slope-ceilinged room that is my favourite in this favourite hotel,  I make my way down the three staircases to the lobby.  A Monet morning sun falls over the floral upholstery on the overstuffed chairs and the view to the garden beckons.  But I am not deterred, for I have someplace else to be.  I pull open the tall black front door, pausing briefly on the threshold to breathe in the cool fragrance of Springtime before taking the stone stairs two at a time. 

 This is a familiar start to many of the days I have spent in London.  Where am I heading with such anticipation as I leave my hotel in Chelsea?  To VV Rouleaux, that enchanting emporium of feathers and ribbons?  No.  As tempting as that dear shop is to me, it is never my very first stop.  Nor am I bound for Brora, with its heavenly Scottish cashmere. 
 Jo Malone, Cath Kidston, Peter Jones.  All are a mere skip away, but none claim first stop place in my heart.  

No, that spot belongs wholly to a bewitching shop on a quirky little side street, humble in appearance but containing riches galore just behind its large-paned windows.  John Sandoe Books, Ltd.   Once a grooming parlor catering primarily to poodles, this eighteenth century shop holds the distinction as being my absolute favourite book store and I always devote my first morning in London to its perusal.  There are books everywhere here - stacked on every conceivable surface.  They line the tiny, eccentrically curved staircase leading up to a floor full to bursting with even more books than found below.  The floors creak in appropriately atmospheric fashion.  (To be here on a rainy afternoon is the closest thing to Eden one can find.)  In short, it is utter paradise and easily claims several hours of my time whenever I’m fortunate enough to be in that glorious city.

No one can doubt the internet has had a deleterious effect on the health and well-being of independent shops.  Books and music are sold in different ways these days, one must admit.  But over the past few months I have visited several delightful independent bookshops which, though sadly harder to come across than they once were, are so worth the effort of seeking out.  In October, I was in Seaside, Florida one afternoon just as a setting sun was painting the white exterior of Sundog Books the most beautiful shade of pink.  Inside I found a treasure trove of books in a most tempting setting.  As I am hardly an abstemious book buyer, it was an effort to extricate myself from its shelves empty handed.  I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the vicinity.  Could there be anything better than picking up the perfect book, grabbing an ice cream as you leave and heading straight for a beach chair beside the sea?  Well, no.

And just this past weekend I was in Nashville, Tennessee for my quarterly classics book club meeting.  There is a one year old independent bookshop there that is a must visit for any book lover.  Parnassus Books is owned by writer, Ann Patchett, and is truly a book lover’s bookshop if ever there was one.  The titles seem curated by those who appreciate beautiful writing and the staff is eager to point you to the most wonderful selections.  I feel lucky to visit every three months or so.  As an utterly ingenious added treat, at the back of the store there is the facade of a grand house with a front door that only stands about four feet tall.  It is the entrance to the children’s department and what a fabulous idea this is.  Kids walk through their own door and enter a tall-ceilinged world of books.  Magic.  

I suppose I’ve had bookshops on my mind as I’ve been reading through one of the books I recommended here for Christmas:  My Bookstore.  Edited by Ronald Rice, My Bookstore is a collection of essays from writers celebrating their favourite places to "browse, read and shop".  Not only a literary treat, it serves as a tantalizing road map for bookworms.  How could we not want to visit Nantucket Bookworks when we read author Elin Hilderbrand describe it as being located on a “quaint leafy street” and looking as though “decades ago it might have been an ice cream shoppe or a private home for someone like Angela Lansbury”.  Or how could we possibly resist a trip to Isabel Allende’s choice, Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, when she speaks of “the sight of shelves packed with books of all kinds, the smell of printed paper and coffee, and the secret rustle of the characters that live in the pages...”   Oooh, don’t we love that secret rustle.

In my own travels I have loved Bunch of Grapes bookshop in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts and E. Shaver Books in Savannah, Georgia.  Malaprop's in Asheville, North Carolina is always a must.  I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I wandered the streets of Wigtown, Scotland, a village known as Scotland’s National Book Town where every single shop is a bookshop - over twenty of them!  But still, I remain firm in my devotion to John Sandoe Books.  It is My Bookstore.

Now of course, as I’ve shared John Sandoe Books with you,
 you all simply must tell me your favourite bookshop. 
 I know you have one!

As a special treat for my dear readers.....
I have a copy of My Bookstore to give away to one of you.
To enter, just leave a comment below, telling me your favourite bookshop.
I'll draw a winner at midnight on my wedding anniversary... Sunday the 27th!!

John Sandoe Books, Ltd.
Congratulations to Judy M!
She's the winner of My Bookstore.
Judy, please drop me a line with your address!
Thanks to all who entered,
your favourite bookstores are all soooo tempting!


  1. Hello Pamela:
    How refreshing to read this post in support of real bookshops which are, as you mention, very much becoming an endangered species. It is so important to support, as you so clearly do, these independent retailers if we are to have any hope of ensuring their survival.

  2. Hey Pamela,

    I stumbled upon your blog about a month ago and haven't stopped reading it. The one thing that I like the most is the photos you pick to illustrate your posts. They are so whimsical....My fave bookstore? I can't decide between any used bookstore and the public library. I love old dusty books, especially original editions from the early 1900's.


  3. My most favorite bookstore is in Rockport, MA - Toad Hall Bookstore. Isn't that a great name? It is a quaint store in a quaint town. Locally, Barbara's Bookstore in just a few miles away and I frequent it first when book shopping.

    Another lovely post!

  4. Downtown there is a charming second hand book store appropriately named The Book Shop. Although it is a bit limited on titles, it's location is quaint. If I need a particular book I visit Barnes and Noble, Amazon or order one from my favorite blogger/author!


  5. I would love to have a real bookstore to go and sit and be cozy and admire all the vintage books etc.
    I go to Barns & Noble or amazon to get my books, which is my only choices in this town
    There use to be a wonderful book store here, b/4 Barnes & Noble moved in , just like in the movie where Tom Hanks was the big book store owner moving into town

    Please enter my name in your book drawing

  6. My favorite bookstore is located in New York City. It is called Shakespeare and Company. I am pleased as punch that it has not been run out by the big box stores. They have old wood floors that creak as you walk, and the wonderful aroma of old and new books. Sometimes I can be seen peering open an old book just to look at the paper, and take in the "oldish" aroma.
    Please enter my name in your book drawing. Thank you.
    Best to you, and Happy Anniversary on the 27th.

  7. My favorite bookstore is "The Shop Around the Corner," Kathleen Kelley (Meg Ryan's) bookstore in the movie "You've Got Mail." it can be a fictitious book store, right?

  8. I had just lamented that the Kindles will be the ruination of the booksellers. I know, I know it's progress, but it's also so sad, isn't it. However, there are very few book stores like the one you describe, I can certainly see why you love it.

  9. I love E.Shavers in Savannah !
    We lived one block away from Powells Bookstore in Portland , Oregon, talk about a lot of books ! :)
    Right now, my "bookstores" come from Kindle, although there are lovely stores here, the books are all in Spanish.
    But El Ateneo is the local book store here ,
    So amazing, we go there just to look and sit and soak up the atmosphere in their coffee shop.

  10. Dear Pamela, I love your English spelling. My favorite bookstore, in my neck of the woods, was Cody's books on Telegraph Ave., Berkeley. Sadly it is no longer in existence. It had a vast array of books, periodicals and stationary. The patrons were equally fascinating. The employees filled with knowledge. Sad to say that most of my books now come from Amazon. . .except yours.

  11. Beautiful photograph of John Sandoes Pamela - worthy of a jig saw which the farmer and I would enjoy doing.

    As you probably know, our book town here in the UK is Hay on Wye. Well, Westwoods, who were based in Hay on Wye, now have a large bookstore in Sedburgh, only thirty miles from us on a beautiful drive through Wensleydale.

    Two floors of second hand books on every subject you can imagine, plus a selection of new books too.
    A coffee machine, settees, a lovely quiet atmostphere and nothing to do but browse to one'[s hearts content. Bliss.

  12. Hello Pamela

    My favorite bookstore is and will always be--The Open Book(Greenville SC). I was so sad to see them close their doors a few years ago. I also love Malaprop--it is a very different bookstore.

    Have a great day!

    Tracy :-)

  13. Hatchards on Picadilly in London. Enchanting, utterly enchanting - and it's where I first discovered Salley Vickers (Miss Garnet's Angel, Incidences of The Number Three, Mr. Golightly's Holiday, The Other Side of You, Where Three Roads Meet, Dancing Backwards). If you haven't read her Pamela, I strongly recommend.

  14. Too many wonderful bookstores to choose just one. Most of them are in places we always visit on our travels - Three Lives in the West Village in Manhattan, the Strand on Broadway, then there's the Brewster Bookstore on Cape Cod and The Owl and the Turtle in Camden, Maine. Oh, and R.J. Julia in Madison, CT. And I have to mention our own Book Bin on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I lived in London back in the 80s and don't remember seeing John Sandoes. It's going on the list. Thank you!

  15. What a delightful post, I too love to spend time being in these secret paper gardens, where the leaves are pale and the roots reach down history....
    There is one in Greenwich, CT, Diane's Books, which I love to visit anytime I happen to go up there, Strand in New York of course and so many countless places all over Europe, where I happen to be as often as I can.
    In London I love the Persephone bookstore, near the Charles Dickens Museum.
    Please include me in your book drawing.....
    Enjoy the weekend, Pamela, we have the first pristine snowfall, heavenly!

  16. John Sandoes sounds right down my alley--if I ever get to London. I had the pleasure in October of visiting the real Shakespeare & Company in Paris. That one would definitely be on my list. Green Apple Books in San Francisco, and what used to be Moe's Books just off the campus at Berkeley. The Strand in the Big Apple. My all-time favorite is any book store that has books stacked in disarray on the floor, narrow aisles, a bit of dust about, a place to just dig around and see what you might find. I have also made some great finds at estate sales. News articles are beginning to emerge which indicate that HB books are not as much "gone with the wind" as we have been led to believe, and that is great news. The Kindle's fire may not always burn as bright as there are many readers who prefer the real thing their hands, no matter how heavy.

  17. Hello Pamela

    A delighted post on a subject which I love dearly. Hatchard's in London is a long time favourite. In Toronto, Canada: Sellers & Newell is a must they specialize in first editons, collectible and antiquarian books. David Newell is an authority on Irish literature and loves discussion on Beckett, Yeats, Joyce and the modern Irish writers. I have whiled away many an hour in this unique store.
    Helen xx

  18. Gosh I just saw your site pop up on my list and realised it is ages since I visited your blog. Then I see that you are in London.

    Hope you are having a great trip over here.

    Wonder if you red the story about the Californian girl who saw the Wigtown bookstore in a dream and came over and ended up living there with it's owner.

  19. Far too many years ago, I stumbled upon this Ann Arbor, MI bookstore, Dawn Treader, and came away with a charming book of poetry by Emily Bronte. I've been hooked ever since with exploring book stores and cozy nooks. I love the feel of the paper, the smell of of binding, as well as reading the words gifted to us by other sojourners in this life! Thank you for your words, Pamela!

  20. Thank you for pointing attention to the issue so eloquently! I love to peruse the rows of books at The Strand in NYC.

  21. A lyrical post, as always.

    My favorite would have to be The Rare Book School at the University of Virginia
    As for a genuine book shop, it's Heartwood Books in Charlottesville.

    My best to Edward!

  22. My favorite bookstore is not a "proper" one but the used books section at our local Thrift store. I always find treasures. Thanks for the chance to win!


  23. I love bookstores and the ones you mention sound marvelous. I have fond memories of The Intimate Bookshop on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC, from my college days. Sadly, it is no more. I also love Malaprop's in Asheville, but another favorite is a short walk away: Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar at the Grove Arcade. It deals primarily in used books and has wonderful nooks with comfy seating, a rambling floor plan and steep metal steps to a second floor, and you can have your wine, too. Would you like a Blood Orange Mimosa while you browse? There's also cheeses and dips, and coffee and pastries in the morning. There's even an area to sit outside. Heaven.

  24. My favorite is Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. Always something interesting there.

  25. Unfortunately, my favorite little book store has recently closed. It was called Belgravia Books and Treasures and was a second hand book shop. I tend to buy books on line these days because of it though I do enjoy a trip to Chapters to view their magazine sections especially.
    Years ago we were in Britain and visited Heffers- what an amazing set of book shops they are/or were..
    I live in Alberta Canada.
    The Book Store looks like a lovely book.

  26. I love our local bookstore, called Epilog, in my little mountain town of Quincy in Northern California. I also enjoy The Title Wave in Portland, OR, which sells library discards. Of course, Powell's is also fun to visit there, but I still prefer the smaller and cozier shops overflowing with old and beloved treasures.
    That book sounds delightful! Thanks for the chance to win!

  27. On a trip to London in the mid- 1980's, I knew I'd be looking through the plate glass into an empty storefront. Nevertheless, I had to see Marks & Co at
    84 Charring Cross Road above all else. And it's a memory which still provides a tiny thrill as does being able to read the book and watch the film forever.

    (By the way, I think it may be the rare case where the film is every bit as good as the book.)

  28. Hi Pamela, My favourite book 'place' is a bit unconventional, its the small charity shop which I work in located in sunny Bexhill, England called Scope. We are host to every type of book imaginable and there's nothing I enjoy more than paging through them in-between serving customers!

  29. Oh my, this is a beautiful post. So many ideas of where to visit 'someday'...the spirit is willing and appetite whetted. I so love your description of John Sandoes Books' eccentricities, as well as the telling of one lady's visit to 84 Charring Cross Road. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have had several legendary independent bookstores, Shorey's (1890-1990)and Elliot Bay Book Company, both nook and cranny havens for readers. A ferry ride away is Eagle Harbor Books (1973) and for used books we had Horizon books which closed recently and Twice Told Tales where several cats currently reside. Happy Anniversary to you and your hubby.

  30. Bookshops!
    What joy indeed.
    When I was a student instead of working in fast food joints, I always worked in bookshops....

    but my absolute favorite was Blackwell's in Oxford
    where I had my very first job cataloging antique tomes

    half calf
    etc etc

    My father let me open an account there......
    imagine 17 and able to sign for books (I had to pay the bill but....)

    Anyway, dear Pamela, I nominate them.
    Pats to Edward and Apple.

    Hope you had a super time in England.

  31. Half-Price Books, Houston, TX.

  32. I do not have just one book store, love something about each one I go in.Book stores are so peaceful I can stay for hours.

  33. Oh dear. So many bookstores, so little time. I would have to nominate Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, home of William Faulkner and Ole Miss.

    There are actually three bookstores on the historic square: Square Books; Off Square Books for bargains and which has a front window that opens onto the sidewalk; and, Square Books Jr.

    Then of course there is Shakespeare and Co. in Paris.

    I visited Parnassus this past spring and had a wonderful time there. A lovely addition to Nashville.

  34. While not as poetic as some of the bookshops you and others mention, occasionally a flea market will devote a corner to someone's collection of cherished books and treasures can be found.

    Happy anniversary. Today, the 27th marks the 13th anniversary of my husband's calling to ask me out on our first date..which occurred on the 28th. Sweet memories.

  35. Gail, in northern CaliforniaJanuary 27, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    My favorite bookstore has to be The Book Juggler downtown. It's a used bookstore owned and operated by a young couple and their dog Zeus who sits in the window watching the world go by It's an eclectic mix of wonderful books; a shop you get lost in. Before I know it I've been in there for over an hour and I was just going to "swing by".

    Happy Anniversary!

  36. The Book Barn in Niantic, CT is a bibliophile's dream with lots of cozy nooks and crannies in which to savor your favorite genre. Lovely gardens, koi pond, free coffee and tea, helpful staff, wagons to transport your treasures from building to building and friendly felines basking in puddles of sunlight all help to create just the right book lovers' atmosphere. All this and within walking distance of the ocean. Heaven!

  37. Rainy Day Books! I would love to read this book Pamela! It sounds simply wonderful!

    New 2013 Artists Series

  38. I would have to cast my vote for Powell's in Portland, OR. It is a full city block! Years ago a poll determined that the most desirable job in Portland was being a book buyer for Powell's. The employees are true bibliophiles. A great place to easily spend the day!!! Allegra

  39. I am new to your blog and late for the drawing, but I had to include City Lights Book Store in San Francisco, when I lived there years ago I spent one day a week in there and never left empty handed.
    Also love Powells in Portland, OR.

  40. Pamela,
    Oh how I love bookstores and I fear they are soon to be extinct. I hope not. This was a fun post, thank you.

  41. All of these bookstores makes me so jealous! Not being a traveling type of girl and living in a remote part of New Brunswick, Canada, I can't really state a favourite bookstore. There is, however, a booksale held 4 times a year starting in the Spring and ending in the Fall that I long for and count the days until it is time. It is a treasure trove of old and new books all housed in an old convieniece store. And the best part, all proceeds go to the local Heritage Society! Only a few more months to wait... sigh...


  42. Shame I was so tied up at the weekend, I've missed your giveaway, but I loved reading your post.
    Although that area of London was somehwere I regularly visited when I lived there, I have never been into John Sandoe - something I will rectify on my next visit, whenever that may be! Thanks for the recommendation.
    My two favourite bookshops these days are Hodges & Figgis in Dublin and Hatchards in London - both of which are wonderful.
    Hope you had a great time in London and a happy wedding anniversary!

  43. Once upon a bookshop...count me in! Love that you listed all your favourites and I especially love your first choice...wouldn't it be lovely to be approaching it today. Imagine what treasures would be waiting for us.. xx

  44. Happy Anniversary! I loved this tribute to bookstores. The internet will never replace their charm. Our local indie, Gulf of Maine Books, is celebrating it's 34th birthday this month.

  45. Wonderful post. Here where I live, in Asturias, Spain, there is a beautiful bookshop, Paradiso, in Gijón. I should make photos... The Internet is very useful for me, because I can't find easily books in other languages.


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