Plinky would like to know today which bookshop I could waste an afternoon in. Just an afternoon?! Well that could be any old books store! I love rifling through the shelves of Waterstones in Birmingham, so many floors of books, so many shelves. Give me a coffee and a comfy chair and I am there for hours. Charity shop mooching for books is also a good waste of an afternoon, cheap books and a good wander in and out of shops without feeling the guilt of either a) not buying anything or b) spending too much money.
But, if I was to indulge in a whole day, or even a weekend (oh yes!) of book mooching there is only one place: Barter Books in Alnwick.
I have only been there the once, but oh how I have dreamed about it! Alnwick is a little historic town an hour north of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne by bus. Friend’s of mine used to live in Newcastle and one weekend we went to Alnwick for a farmer’s market and food fair. But it also happened to involve a trip to Barter Books, which almost made us miss the last food sales of the day!
The store is a second hand and antiquarian book shop, filling an old Victorian Railway Station. The building itself is truly beautiful and just the site of all the books is incredible. A sheer labyrinth of shelves and book cases of every genre of book known to man. Dusty corners piled high with every volume you could ever imagine. You could sit cross legged in an isle devouring page after page and never be found. A perfect wonderland of words.
Barter Books (http://www.barterbooks.co.uk/shop.php#history) is one of the largest stores of its kind in the UK, possibly even in Europe which is exceptional considering the humility of the tiny town of Alnwick. It has been described by the New Statesman as “The British Library of second hand bookshops”, but I don’t feel this does it justice. The way all the traditional elements of the building are incorporated into the layout of its content, make it so accessible, so welcoming and a complete over load to the literary senses. Unlike many large corporation book shops, here you feel completely at home and totally at ease to spend hour upon hour browsing the many corridors of books and marvelling at the gorgeous first editions.
Likewise, the children’s section has chairs and cushions and corners in which to actually sit and read with your child. It is a uniquely wonderful place and a weekend trip to the North East would be well worth it for anyone who adores literature. Alnwick is situated in the beautiful North East country side with pretty market towns and history bulging from its seams. And if that doesn’t float your boat, it’s barely any distance from the coast and/or the bright lights of Newcastle.
I would highly recommend to anyone a trip to Barter Books, if not to buy anything then at the very least to bask in its splendour, to drown in the scent of well loved pages, and to get lost amongst the tomes of words desperate to be read. A joy to behold.