It’s the latest in my new Friday feature, where 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.
The fourth bookshop to be virtually visited is West End Lane Books in West Hampstead, London.
1. Tell us about West End Lane Books.
West End Lane Books is a small, family-owned independent bookshop, in the heart of West Hampstead in NW London. We’ve been recommending, selling and drooling (not literally) over books since 1994 and we pride ourselves on friendly, personal service plus regular evening events in the shop with authors.
2. We open the front door to your shop. What can we see as we cross the threshold?
Billions of books, the bookshop goldfish tank (new, thanks to lovely Canongate Books), a bookseller or two peeking over the books!
3. What’s the most unusual request you’ve had in store – if you can tell us.
Someone once asked me to baby sit a stuffed parrot they had just bought at a nearby charity shop.
4. Do you have anything that’s unique to your shop? What makes you stand out?
We’re pretty famous for our Bookshop Lock Ins. These happen on a 3 or 4 times yearly basis and we notify customers through social media and our website. Basically, we re-open the shop after it’s officially closed for the day and throw a bookshop party with a drop of booze, and cakes which a lovely customer bakes for us and there’s 20% off everything til we’re all so tired we need to go to bed.
5. Do you have any tips on which books will be big this year?
I absolutely loved The Wife by Alafair Burke, which has just come out and blew my socks off. Super sleek and classy thriller set in the world of neo-liberal academia.
6. If you could only recommend one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Toss up between A Month In The Country by EL Carr or The Enchanted April, both of which act like a breath of pure oxygen.
7. Let us know how we can find you.
We’re literally at 277 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 1QS, a five min stroll from WH tube or Overground. Online, we’re at www.welbooks.co.uk, @WELBooks. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone is 0207 431 3770. We don’t sell online but as we get so many signed books during our talks with the great and the good we offer a postal service anywhere in the world.
(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!)