In what I hope will be a new, though granted likely to be rather sporadic, Friday feature, I want to highlight some of the many independent book shops that are out there waiting to be discovered. Whilst there are the usual online book retailers and big name high street shops there are also some wonderful independent bookshops with a treasure trove of literary delights to uncover. There is nothing quite like browsing in a book shop, seeing the books, being able to actually look at them before deciding and of course the booksellers and owners are often a mine of information, a much underused resource.
The sad thing is that unless they are used they will vanish from our towns and villages. The childhood (and to be fair, grown up) delight of visiting a book shop and being able to sit amongst so many books, deciding which new unearthed treasure to take home will be sadly lost.
So in this new feature I’ll be bringing you Q&As with a variety of book shops, in, hopefully, a variety of destinations.
The first book shop we are virtually visiting is Belgravia Books.
1. Tell us about Belgravia Books.
We are an independent bookshop in the heart of London, between the busy hub of Victoria and the picturesque streets of Belgravia. We stock a carefully considered range of new titles, including our own fiction published by Gallic Books, based here at the shop.
2. We open the front door to your shop. What can we see as we cross the threshold?
Among the new and bestsellers on display we also include a variety of our own personal recommendations. We are a small shop where you can take your time browsing and chat to the staff.
3. What’s the most unusual request you’ve had in store? – if you can tell us.
(I have to be honest – this occurred in another shop I worked at). Someone was asking for picture books. When I took them to the children’s section it turned out they were asking for picture hooks. It all became a bit like The Two Ronnies.
4. Do you have anything that’s unique to your shop? What makes you stand out? (eg subscription services, book doctor type recommendations, local author features)
We are a rarity in that we are an independent bookshop in Central London, and even more rare in that we are an independent publishing house with its own bookshop. We are very proud of our website: it is bespoke to the shop, reflects our ethos of curation, and when our subscription services launch later this year, it will house them.
5. Do you have any tips on which books will be big this year?
A couple of debut novels: Lullaby by Leila Slimani, and Salt Creek by our own brilliant author Lucy Treloar.
6. If you could only recommend one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. It is the perfect novella with a timeless message. I cannot grow tired of it.
7. You also publish books as the Aardvark Bureau and Gallic Books. Tell us a little about those imprints and what kinds of books we can expect from you.
Aardvark Bureau publishes world fiction in English. It is a window to extraordinary literature that has been celebrated overseas but that is not available in the UK. Our list includes novels by Fiona Kidman, New Zealand’s most influential author who is yet to be discovered by British readers. We are also home of Henrietta Rose-Innes, one of South Africa’s most exciting new voices whose novels are set in her native Cape Town and talk about the relationship between humans and nature. From Australia we found impressive writing from Robert Edeson and more recently Lucy Treloar with her exceptional debut novel Salt Creek. We are also very excited about forthcoming The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr.
This imprint has also given us the freedom to support British talent. We are the proud publishers of Rowena Macdonald, Charles Lambert and Edward Carey, whose novel Little is set to become one of the best books of the year.
7. Let us know how we can find you.
We are a short walk from Victoria Rail Station (five minutes); if using online maps, always best use the shop postcode, though – people have been known to go astray: SW1W 0NZ.
Orders and queries can be taken by phone and email: Contact 020 7259 9336, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of the books in the shop are available to buy through our website. Anything not on the website can still be ordered through this here link: http://belgraviabooks.com/bb/special-order-query
(I don’t receive any payment or have any vested interest in any sales that may result from this post. The sole intent of the feature is to highlight the many fabulous bookshops out there. Happy shopping!)