Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Making of Modern Ireland

“The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.” – Seamus Heaney

The history of a nation all too often depends on an admixture of truths, half-truths and mythology; exemplified by the story of Britain and Ireland. Both countries were part of the Angevin Empire that controlled an area from the banks of the Shannon to the Centre of France until after its defeat by the French, in 1399. But Ireland did not experience English rule until her colonisation by Henry VIII in the 16th Century.

Basing their story on past ills which resulted in the 1798 Rising by the United Irishmen and the birth of republicanism, together with carefully selected facts, folklore and historically inaccurate assumptions, the Fenians produced a mythology which was in part responsible for the Rising of 1916. Few are aware that this would not have been possible but for the secret connivance of the enemies of Irish freedom, while Ireland gained her independence not by the Rising but as a result of British over-reaction which produced the War of Independence.

The Making of Modern Ireland looks at the broad sweep of the nation’s history from the 12th Century, when it was part of the Angevin Empire, right up to 2009 and the government of Brian Cowan. Geoff Robinson’s narrative offers an alternative view, stripped of the half-truths and mythology, that has passed for much of the country’s history.

Though born and educated in England, Geoff Robinson is an Irish citizen who has lived in Ireland for over fifty years. An unswerving believer in the rectitude of the Irish cause, he knew many who had been involved in the 1916 Rising and later came to meet others of such divergent political views as the daughter of a Redmondite MP and the editor of the “Bulletin”, a clandestine newssheet published during the War of Independence. Following his marriage in 1966 to Bernadette Tiernan, a national teacher, he developed an interest in Irish politics. His wife’s revelation that no critical examination of the events leading up to the 1916 Rising was contained in the schools curriculum, prompted him to make a re-evaluation of Irish history which has resulted in his book, The Making of Modern Ireland. He lives in Dublin with his wife Bernadette and at 88 years old Geoff Robinson proves that it’s never too late to write your first book.

You can buy the book HERE

Monday, July 13, 2009

Broughton Street Book Shop – Edinburgh

There is a wonderful story in the Daily Telegraph this morning about a book shop in Edinburgh. I can't wait to visit it. Read about it HERE. It will warm your heart.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Stones in The Park – Book Signing in Kelso

40th Anniversary Story of the thirty-three days in the summer of ‘69 during which The Rolling Stones changed forever.

I'll be signing at Latimer Books in Kelso
Saturday 4th July 11 am 'til 1pm
5 Mill Wynd
01573 225776
The Stones in the Park tells this amazing story as well as featuring many unseen photographs

For the Rolling Stones everything changed in the summer of ’69. They were no longer the blues band that Brian Jones had put together in 1962, they had stopped being a pop band and had hardly performed on stage since 1967 – and it was live that the Stones always excelled. This is the story of the thirty-three days in the summer of ‘69 during which The Rolling Stones changed forever. Drug busts, fall-outs, at least one album that failed to live up to expectations and uncertainty surrounded the band, they had flirted with psychedelia but were on the cusp of becoming the ‘Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.

It tells how, on Sunday 8 June 1969 Brian Jones left the band he had founded, and less than a month later he tragically died just days before the band played a free concert in London’s Hyde Park for somewhere close to 500,000 people. Unfortunately, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both missed their old band mate’s funeral, Mick was in Australia filming Ned Kelly (his performance recorded in numerous unseen photographs).

Undaunted, the Stones, who have always been greater than the sum of their parts, recruited Mick Taylor to play guitar in place of Brian, recorded one of their greatest ever singles and played the largest ever concert in Britain to that point, and Mick Jagger, like many pop singers before him, went off to be a film star. They also became – The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World and since then the Rolling Stones have gone on to be watched in concert by more people than any other band. They have come to epitomise everything that is excessive, exciting, powerful, lavish and brilliant about rock music. They are dynastic, imperial and majestic... true Rock Royalty.

“The greatest rock and roll band in the world. They’re incredible; let’s hear it for the Stones!” – Sam Cutler introducing the band on Saturday 5 July 1969 – the first time they were given the accolade

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Judith Miller at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells

Judith Miller began collecting in the 1960s while a student at Edinburgh University in Scotland. She has since extended and reinforced her knowledge of antiques through international research, becoming one of the world's leading experts in the field. In 1979 she co-founded the international best-seller Miller's Antiques Price Guide and has since written more than 100 books, which are held in high regard by collectors and dealers. Judith Miller appears regularly on TV and radio. She is an expert on the BBC's "Antiques Roadshow" and co-hosts the popular BBC TV series "The House Detectives," ITV's "Antiques Trail," and Discovery's "It's Your Bid". She has appeared on "The Martha Stewart Show" and CNN. She is a regular lecturer and contributor to numerous newspapers and magazines, including Financial Times, BBC Homes & Antiques and House & Garden. She has lectured extensively, including at the V&A in London and the Smithsonian in Washington.

Judith will be giving a talk about how she got into antiques in the first place, and looking at the world of antiques and collecting today as it is today.

She has also generously agreed to do some valuations on smaller items and answer questions.

Tickets: £5 per head (includes a 10% discount on any Judith Miller titles purchased on the day)
To book, please email:
Please note that space is limited so it is essential to book in advance
Date: Saturday 4th July, 3-5pm

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Cafe 8 June

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe asks the question. What do you do if you can’t get your novel published? You could follow Tim Clare’s example and write about the experience of not getting a book deal, and get that published instead. We’ll be talking about his book ‘We Can’t all be Astronauts’ and finding out from bookshop owners Roz De La Hey and Vanessa Robertson, who both have publishing connections, whether his descriptions of the world of literature are correct. Jen Campbell is another aspiring author but she’s also the creator of a prize winning readers’ group. How do to the online experiences of today’s book lovers compare with library visits of the last century. Tune in to hear one woman’s recollections of the Campbell Library in Pollockshaws. All that plus more from The Book Detectives

Sunday, May 24, 2009

BBC Book Cafe 25 May

This week on the Book Cafe we have some interesting stuff, mostly about language. Are our teenagers suffering from ‘word poverty’ despite the fact that a new word becomes part of the language every 98 minutes? Linguist David Crystal gives his thoughts. And are soap operas responsible for pupils describing Shakespearean characters as ‘high maintenance’ who need to ‘move on’? River City’s Libby McArthur takes up the challenge of defending ‘soap speak’. Who do the crime writers turn to when they need advice on police techniques and forensic routines – ex coppers Tom Wood and Karen Campbell reveal the kind of questions they get asked by authors wanting to get their facts straight.

I've also just heard from Sarah Kersley, whose bookshop in Brazil I featured at the start of May, will also be on the show. The power of the t'internet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Cafe 18 May

Roll out those beach towels…the summer is just about here! But what will we all be reading on the beach & in the airports this year? The Book Cafe will be previewing all the major fiction releases across Scotland in the next few months… What do the large retailers think will be the most popular? Any hidden gems we haven’t previously heard about?

Clare English will also chat to one of the world’s top rare book dealers Rick Gekoski – who has been plied with alcohol by Graham Greene, threatened with a law suit by J. D. Salinger, berated by Ted Hughes, and helped J.R.R Tolkien move house…

Plus a look at international crime fiction and a report from the Christian Aid book sale in Edinburgh.

Getting Closer to Buddy Holly

Spencer Leigh writes meticulously researched books on music. His most recent title is Everyday: Getting Closer to Buddy Holly and it is a fantastic piece of work that will delight any fan of Buddy and anyone interested in musical and cultural history. Spencer has interviewed countless numbers of people who knew Buddy, worked with him or were simply touched by his music. In the introduction Spencer writes. "In 1984 Ian Dury made an album called 4000 Weeks Holiday. The title scared the hell out of me because I realised that's all the time we've got on earth." Well my advice is to spend part of one of those weeks reading Spencer's book. You can see details HERE before popping into your local bookshop to order and buy it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Looking for Agnès: a tale of passion and paper trails

It looks like there's another enticing event at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells, following last week's excellent James Runcie talk. This one is on 26 May and details are available HERE

Barbara Mellor will be talking about her work translating the remarkable WW2 diary, Resistance by Agnès Humbert. Barbara's passion for the history of the French Resistance grew from her love for France, where she has lived on and off for many years, and her work as a translator specialising in books on French art and history. When she stumbled upon Agnès Humbert's original French diary, Notre Guerre, she knew she had found something extraordinary; she took it to an editor at Bloomsbury, and within eighteen months it had been published to acclaim in ten languages. Barbara will be talking about how she found the French diary and unearthed details of Agnès Humbert's remarkable life and family; the experience of translating Résistance and bringing this forgotten voice to a far greater audience; and the continuing story of new discoveries since publication of the hardback edition in 2008.

I've read the book – it's brilliant; so I can't wait to hear the story behind its writing.

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe 11 May

A great show is in store on Monday with the legendary journalist, broadcaster and sixties icon, Dame Joan Bakewell. She's now added novelist to her list of talents. In Monday's Book Café, recorded at Glasgow's Aye Write Festival, she talks to Clare English about her book 'All The Nice Girls' and about her life and career, which included a brief spell as the model for Tampax!

Monday, May 4, 2009

There's An Awfully Good Book Shop Down in Brazil

Now we all know there's an awful lot of Coffee in Brazil, courtesy of Mr Sinatra, but did you know there's a great bookshop that stocks English language books? Not just English language either; it has new and used books in 15 different languages. I know this because Sarah Rebecca Kersley emailed me from Itacaré, in Bahia state in Northeast Brazil to tell me about her shop that opened in 2007. Sarah discovered the blog after listening online to the book café on Radio Scotland...isn't the web wonderful?

Sarah graduated from Glasgow University and headed south to open the Urso de Óculos bookshop (the name means "The Spectacled Bear"). It is the only bookshop in the town that has a population of 22 000. Since opening in 2007, the space has become increasingly popular as an international meeting point, a local community book exchange and host to regular cultural events. Sarah is a British translator who has lived in Brazil since 2005 and besides the books it also serves espresso coffee (made from the billions of beans down in Brazil no doubt), hot chocolate and Twinings tea (apparently all three are very difficult to find outside big cities in Brazil).

She tells me, "Visitors from Scotland are particularly welcome, with the frequent sound of Eddi Reader playing on the bookshop stereo!"

If you want to know more visit the Urso de Óculos website. If you really want to know more get on a plane, fly south and stand beneath that amber moon. . .

Sadly it’s been years since I've been to Brazil. The first time I went was in 1976 when I flew to Rio de Janeiro from Miami arriving very early on a Sunday morning; I was working in the airline business at the time. I checked-in at the Copacabana Palace, and as I headed for the lift I bumped into a girl who flew for our airline; like me she was on her first trip to Rio. Like her I wanted to see the sights and were not put off by the fact that it was very overcast. An hour or so later we headed out and took the rickety train up to the statue of Cristo Redentor. When we got off the train we were bathed in cloud as we walked the last part up to the viewing platform. Arriving at the top the clouds parted to reveal what is still one of the half dozen best views I've ever seen in my life.

'There's one thing that I'm certain of; return I will to old Brazil.'

Friday, May 1, 2009

James Runcie

James Runcie's talk and reading at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswell last night was wonderful. He is a great raconteur, his story, against himself, involving David Starkey was brilliant. James Runcie's new book, East Fortune, if his readings and his conversation are anything to go by is a must read – especially if you're a middle-aged male. Actually the issues he writes about affect many of us and I cannot wait to read it (currently Mrs.H has bagged it and started reading it in bed last night).

Mainstreet Trading, as I have said before, is a wonderful book shop, but it's also a lovely space for author events. They have one coming up with Judith Miller in July....more news when I get it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

St Andrews, Fife

I was in St Andrews at the weekend, it has to be one of the lovliest towns in Scotland, and visited J.G. Innes the independent book shop. Interesting selection of titles in a lovely old shop that made me feel quite nostalgic!

There are a number of really good charity shops selling books, in particular the Dr. Barnardo's where I picked up a couple of real bargains. Waterstones, was, well it was Waterstones. . .what can I say. There was also a book stall in Market Street on Saturday where I also got a couple of excellant buys.

Off to Mainstreet Trading in St. Boswell's tonight for the James Runcie event. . I'll report back...

BBC Scotland's Book Cafe 4 May

Next Monday Chris Dolan is presenting the Book Cafe on BBC Radio Scotland. He is talking to the legendary art loving nun Sister Wendy Becket and best-selling novelist Monica Ali will be on hand to talk about their latest publications. Book dealers Fergus Smith and John Sibbald from Lyon and Turnbull have advice for one listener in our Book Detectives Series. All that plus how would you fancy having a copy of an out of stock book printed out specially for you as you enjoyed a cup of coffee?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BBC Radio Scotland Book Cafe 20 April

Steve Vander Ark, author of The Lexicon -the first encyclopedia to the entire Harry Potter series - chats to The Book Cafe about having to change his book after JK Rowling took him to court for copyright infringement. She may have won the case, but a revised version of The Lexicon has recently been published. The show will also look at what do commuters read on the train between Edinburgh and Glasgow? And if they don’t read - what do people do?

American writer Wells Tower is putting the short story back on the map - his debut collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned has won him many adoring fans, and it's receiving rave reviews on both sides of the pond. There's also s piece about how writers cope with a deep involvement or emotional attachment to their subjects. Does writing a diary or going clubbing keep you sane when your subject matter becomes over powering? Finally Gillian Philip chats about her new compelling teen drama, Crossing the Line.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mainstreet Trading and James Runcie

Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells have an author event on 30 April, we've already got our tickets! It's with James Runcie, whose fourth novel, East Fortune, is his first set in Scotland, where he has now returned to live. The son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, James is an award-winning television documentary maker as well as an acclaimed novelist. His recent work for television includes J K Rowling: A Year in the Life, Anger (with Griff Rees Jones), The Joy of Motoring and Ten Days that Made the Queen.

Intense, humane, humorous and subtle, East Fortune is a moving story about lives at crossroads; about life and love, chance and hope - and how families survive. James will be interviewed by The Scotsman's Literary editor and author of In Cold Ink: On the Writers Tracks, David Robinson.

"This gripping novel has only one major flaw - it was far too short. I wanted at least another 200 pages with these people and their lives." Victoria Hislop, author of The Island

Tickets are £5 (includes a glass of wine), please email or ask in-store.

Buy A Friend A Book Week

Thanks to Farm Lane Books I found this interesting idea. It's called Buy A Friend A Book Week. Having decided who you're to buy a book for all you have to decided to do is from which bookshop you will buy it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Book Detectives on The Book Cafe on BBC Radio Scotland

Next Monday the Book Cafe on BBC Scotland launches ‘The Book Detectives’ giving their listeners the chance to find out how to track down lost books. They’ve the heart warming tale of three generations of women who wanted to find the sequel to a children’s book and how they managed to find a copy in time for Mother’s Day. But just who was the author and why did he disappear without trace? Children’s writer Shirley Hughes will bethere to talk about her latest volume which is aimed at graphic novel loving adults and Jayne Ramage of the Watermill will be on hand to explain how she’s made children’s book groups such a success in Aberfeldy. You can e mail The Book Detectives with your queries -

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not a Book Shop But a Blog. . .

Cornflower Books is a wonderful blog about books, it's well worth a visit; as is Becca & Bella.

We're off to St Andrews for the weekend so I'm looking forward to checking out the bookshops in the town. I shall be blogging about them next week.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Loch Croispol Bookshop, Restaurant and Gallery

Midlothian publisher Lang Syne and Durness based Loch Croispol Bookshop, Restaurant & Gallery are working together to ensure that Lang Syne products have a wider distribution in the Northern Highlands.

Lang Syne, owned and run for 30 years by Ken Laird, produces a series of popular clan and family histories which include most of the more famous Scottish and some Irish names, as well as an extensive range of inexpensive Scottish non-fiction. Its list includes collections of folk tales and oral history from different parts of Scotland, histories and biographies and reprints of classic works such as Alexander Mackenzie’s “Highland Clearances”, John Buchan’s “Massacre of Glencoe” and “Prophecies of The Brahan Seer”. Lang Syne also produces an extensive range of DVDs and quality Scottish-themed gifts, including fine art clan prints, watches, boxed mugs, crest coasters, teddy bears and a wide range of popular souvenirs.

Kevin Crowe of Loch Croispol said: “In the ten years we have been in business in Durness, we have gradually expanded. Five years ago we were founder members of an on-line co-operative of independent booksellers, called World Book Market, a co-operative that now has over 50 members in ten countries and four continents, and the internet is now a major part of our business, with us mailing books every day to all corners of the world. Two years ago, we moved to new and larger premises, enabling us to stock more books, serve more customers in the restaurant and have a small art gallery. We have always sold Lang Syne books, and know how popular they are, so this is a natural extension of our business.”

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brown Mouse by Frank Jennens

To say I've been delinquent in posting would be an understatement. All I can offer in my defence is the fact that I've been busy trying to write books to fill the bookshops we love so much. I'm prompted into action by BBC Scotland's Radio Cafe who have a new feature starting on April 6 which I think we can all relate to.

It's called the Book Detectives and it's going to be a search for books that people have read and now cannot find. The first is a book by Frank Jennens, a children's book illustrator and author in the 1920s and 30s who wrote 'Brown Mouse'. A friend of the show's producer even thinks there may have been a sequel. She thought she had tracked down a copy to a bookshop in Australia but it subsequently turned out that they didn't have it.

So does anyone out there know where to find a copy of Brown Mouse by Frank Jennens? If you do get in touch or leave a comment.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Strathmore Fish Restaurant (Angus)

The Strathmore Fish Restaurant in Forfar is not only a splendid fish and chip shop but they sell second hand books in aid of the Rachel House Children's Hospice in Kinross. So there's two reasons to make a visit to Forfar! You'll find them at 90 Dundee Road, click on the map for directions. It was featured on Radio Scotland's Book Cafe on Monday and you can hear all about it HERE

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Great New Scottish Ancestry Book

Did you know that about 28 million people worldwide can claim Scots ancestry? It means if they all turned up during the year of homecoming we'd be in deep trouble! I know this fact because I've just heard about a fascinating new book to be published next month called Scottish Genealogy by Bruce Durie. Check it out next time you're at your local book shop

Did you also know that Scotland has possibly the most complete and best-kept set of records and other documents on the planet? Given the extraordinary worldwide Scottish diaspora, there's clearly a need for a thorough guide to Scottish genealogy; Bruce Durie’s book brings authority to the subject and is firmly based on established genealogical practice. Bruce disabuses the reader of the many canards which have accompanied the recent upsurge in interest in family history, notably that it’s ‘all on the internet,’ that there is such a thing as a ‘family coat of arms’ and that everything written down must be true (just check out the blogosphere!).

Bruce is the Course Director in Genealogical Studies at the University of Strathclyde and was formerly a biochemist, pharmacologist and neuroscientist; he is also Archivist and Historian to the Chief of the Durie Family and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe (26 January)

On this week's Book Café, we find out if traditional fairytales are just too scary, sad and un-PC for little children - or do they in fact stimulate emotional intelligence? And why has Russia taken our national poet to their hearts - two Scottish teens compare their Burns experience to two teenagers in Russia. Also, as the Kolkata Book Fair approaches, we find out why they've put Scotland in such a pivotal position. Kathleen Kent travels back 9 generations telling Clare why the witch hunts of Salem had such personal resonance…and we take a look at Mexican writer Roberto Bolano who has found literary acclaim with the epic 2666 after his death.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Watermill at Aberfeldy

Stuart Kelly is not only an author of impeccable taste, but as his suggestion for the Great Bookshops blog proves he has his finger on the pulse of what makes a good one! The Watermill at Aberfeldy has won the UK Independent Bookshop of the Year Award so what better recommendation could there be? As the Rough Guide to The Scottish Highlands and Islands says. ”An inspiring bookshop, art gallery and cafe located in the superbly restored mill."

Check out Stuart's wonderful Book of Lost Books; it's a treat.

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Free Adverts in Scottish Review of Books for Bookshops

I've just had this information from Derek Rodger about the next issue of the Scottish Review of Books.

I'll undertake to put all these into a block in the classifieds FREE for next issue out February 15th. We insert the magazine in the Sunday Herald and distribute to many other places, all in all 100,000 copies.

Bookshops can have a double block - make up to a size 98mm x 63mm (width x height), put in their name and logo and contact details etc and a colour picture if they like (must be 300ppi and CMYK). If text is reversed out of a colour it must be minimum 12pt. Copy date Monday 2nd February emailed to derek.rodger at

Why? Well as an independent publisher I like the idea of independent bookshops. And also, if they like this idea, some might come in and pay in future issues. If not, what the hell?

There's more on Argyll Publishing's website.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Atkinson-Pryce Books (Biggar)

David Bishop, who is a lecturer with Sam Kelly on the Napier University Creative Writing Course, recommends Atkinson-Pryce Books in Biggar. (David is a freelance-screenwriter and prolific author).

Atkinson-Pryce describe themselves as, "We are a small, friendly local bookshop with an old-fashioned feel, and a relaxing atmosphere in which to browse. and are able to offer a personal and high-quality service hard to match in larger shops."

What could be better?

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe 19 January

On the BBC Radio Scotland's Book Cafe this week there is.

Is fiction dead? Does the deluge of celebrity titles hitting the bookshelves threaten to wipe out good fictional novels. Clare English provokes heated debate with the "world's finest literary critic" James Wood alongside authors Clare Messud and Sally Vickers and Scotland on Sunday's Stuart Kelly.

You can listen online as well as listen again.

Creative Writing Masters at Napier University

Sam Kelly not only suggests great book shops she also runs a creative writing course at Napier University's School of Arts and Creative Industries. This exciting new development will encompass genre work, including science fiction and fantasy, writing for older children, crime/detective fiction and life writing and will start in from September 2009. The programme will also cover areas such as screen adaptation, script writing and the graphic novel. Sam is a former literary agent, editor and writers’ coach, and she will be joined by David Bishop, former editor of 2000AD, scriptwriter and author of numerous novels, to run this exciting course. A Writer-in-Residence and high profile programme of visiting authors will be announced soon.

If you would like further information please contact Sam on her email, s.kelly at

Ceilidh Place Bookshop & The Ullapool Bookshop (Ullapool)

At the suggestion of Sam Kelly here are two more bookshop that are a long way from anywhere, but very well worth a visit. There’s the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool. It’s not only a bookshop as it is actually located in a hotel! The Ceilidh Place hotel was voted the best hotel in the "Good for the Soul" category in 2005. It was started in 1970 by Robert Urquhart who was born there in 1921. He started a small café in the boat shed but had aspirations for a place where not only postcards but life histories could be written. A place for eating, meeting, talking and singing. What could be better?

While you’re in Ullapool don’t forget to also visit the Ullapool Bookshop on Quay Street. It's a short walk from the hotel.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Bookworms (Helensburgh)

Rab over at The Ben Lomond Free Press recommends Bookworms in the lovely town of Helensburgh. On their web site Bookworms say, "Welcome to Bookworms of Helensburgh, an independent bookshop dedicated to the pleasures of reading." That says it all; it's what makes an independent bookshop great – dedication to the pleasures of reading.

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Achins Bookshop (Inverkirkaig)

Reputed to be Scotland's remotest bookshop and recommended by my friend Carolyn. Located in the parish of Assynt at InverKirkaig, sandwiched between Suilven and the sea, the shop has been there for more than 35 years. During that time Achins Bookshop have become established as a supplier to the Highland Libraries and as a bookseller with an in-depth knowledge and love of Scottish books. They are open between 10 am and 5pm 'in season' so you might want to phone to make sure that your 'in season' too! Telephone 01571 844262

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe 12 January

There are so few programmes on the wireless dedicated to books so we should love and nurture, and listen to, those that are. One of the very best is BBC Radio Scotland's Book Cafe. You can listen online as well as listen again. I'll post the link each week.

Today's show starting at 1.15 p.m. looks interesting.

Clare English talks to Edinburgh-based thriller writer Lin Anderson whose fifth book featuring forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod sees her investigating the murder of a prostitute whose body has been found lying on a grave in the Glasgow Necropolis.

They'll be investigating the history of bookplates or ex libris, and talking to a self-confessed bookplate fanatic who collects books previously owned by royalty and film stars. Find out why the National Galleries of Scotland want to get you writing about what's on their walls. And Clare's joined by the publishers of a new Glasgow-based literary review, who are actively soliciting unpublished writers.

Beyond Words (Edinburgh)

We're lucky enough to have a fantastic bookshop in Edinburgh that is dedicated to photography. Called Beyond Words it's chock full of books that prove the old adage about a thousand words. They say they are Britain's 'foremost independent, specialist retailer of photographic books', pay them a visit and I'm certain you will agree. They have a regular email that keeps you up to datye on what's new but it is just a way of encouraging us all to poay them a visit as their stock, from around the world, is enormous; they also run regular author events.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nomad (London SW6)

This just in from Geoffrey Preston.

"Can I suggest you add Nomad, in the Fulham Road, London SW6, to your list of Great Bookshops? It's a welcoming place, with coffee and snacks, and many of the books have little handwritten descriptive notes and reviews. The owners are quite happy for customers to select books and sit down and read them - there seems to be no pressure to hurry up and buy. It takes the trouble to design interesting (and regularly changing) displays in the windows for passers-by. It's just a nice place, and long may it continue. I have no connection with it - I'm just a local resident who is pleased that the shop is there."

Sounds like just my kind of shop. The nearest tube is Parson's Green

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Barter Books (Alnwick)

This blog is not confined to new bookshops as second-hand shops are every bit as good as going to buy something new. However, in the interests of commerce I will try to keep the balance towards new shops. So help please!

Yesterday I decided I needed to be away from the Mac, twelve days on the run staring at the screen is not good. What better a thing to do than go and visit a bookshop, so I decided to pack up some books that were OTR and head for Alnwick in Northumberland; it's the home of Barter Books, Britain’s biggest second hand book shop. At about 3.15 yesterday afternoon I was standing in line ready to pay for the books I had found during my couple of idyllic hours of browsing. Two were books I had been looking for – two volumes of Rupert Hart-Davis and George Lyttelton's letters to each other; they were the paperback editions that each contained two volumes – so all I need now to find are volumes 5 & 6. I also got several books that I didn't know I wanted.

I deliberately didn't take my mobile with me so I could avoid the temptation to check my emails or any other such unnecessary Saturday act. When I got home there was an email from Cherie.

"I discovered this wonderful second hand bookshop a couple of years ago when I was on holiday. It is situated in an old Victorian railway station, which gives it a lot of character. There is a huge selection of books, which are laid out in a logical sequence; there is even a map to help you find your way round easily.

To add to the enjoyment, it has a waiting room where people can sit down to read, drink coffee and in wintertime enjoy open fires. To cater for families it even has a children’s room with toys, so the adults can enjoy browsing the books uninterrupted."

Cherie is absolutely right. If you want a stop while heading up or down the A1 at anytime Barter Books are just 4 minutes from it. Put it on your list of 'must see shops'.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Leakeys (Inverness)

Amraine Rasool has recommend an Inverness second hand book shop. She says. "If you ever find yourself in Inverness, you must take a trip to Leakeys. It's a second hand book shop on Church Street, which is incredibly cosy and beautiful! But be warned, you might end up spending hours browsing the shelves, and a few more hours trying out the fab home made cakes! Cakes and good books…nice!"

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Topping (Ely & Bath)

Ellee Seymour, author, blogger and human dynamo has recommended Topping who have branches in Ely and Bath. Ellee lives in Ely and uses their shop regularly. As Ellee says, if we don't use bookshops they'll end up like Woolies. While Ellee is correct in saying, if we don't use them independent bookshops will go out of business, unlike Woolies they are constantly, well the majority anyway, trying to keep abreast of things and most have the benefit of being run by passionate people.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

BBC Radio Scotland's Book Cafe

I was on the BBC Radio Scotland's Book Cafe on Monday with the delightful Clare English, and Ian Rankin, talking about the Great Bookshops Blog and Edgar Allan Poe. You can listen again HERE

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Latimer Books (Kelso)

Tucked away in a small street off the main square in Kelso is Latimer Books, be sure not to miss it when you visit one of the Border's most lovely towns. The square in Kelso has the feel of a small French town but that's where the similarity ends; everything else about Kelso is pure Borders.

Latimer Books have been open less than a year but have already established themselves as a great little local bookshop. They cater for everyone with a well thought out range of books and of course, as they're quick to point out, they can order their customers any book they want. Run by Norman and Jane you know on first talking to them that here are two people who love books and despite, or perhaps because, off being new to selling books they have unbounded enthusiasm for what they are doing. Having worked in the hotel trade they know a thing or two about service and this is just one of the factors that makes them a shop worth visiting.

They are very supportive of local authors and regularly hold author events that feature writers from the Borders. I went there one morning when they had a signing with two men, John Stuart who has a medical background and Bill Goodburn whose former life was mixed up with the law. . .in the right way of course. They have a wonderful little book called Double Vision – A second look at life that features John's Haiku verse and Bill's lovely pen and ink drawings.

Publisher's deadline
writer's block
putting his head on it

Norman and Jane are quick to say, "If you like that, you'll love this." Before producing a book off their shelves; just the right sort of people to be running a bookshop.

As an added bonus they are located in Mill Wynd, which not surprisingly leads to a mill. Owned by Heaths on a site that was once where the old mill of Kelso Abbey stood. Hogarth’s supply the best oats for porridge that you'll find anywhere.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Mainstreet Trading (St. Boswells)

I've often thought it would be great to open my own bookshop and the one I see in my mind's eye is a lot like the Mainstreet Trading Company. It combines a lovely large space for books that are well displayed both on shelves and tables, with a cafe selling great coffee, cakes and snacks.

For me being able to sit and read a book (and even browse through some before buying) while having a good cup of coffee and a cake is close to perfection – make sure your hands are not sticky! One of the really good things about Mainstreet Trading is the selection of titles. They offer a great range and there's plenty of space so you don't feel you're on top of the person standing next to you who is also intent on finding the perfect book to buy.

Roz de la Hey, whose shop it is, runs it along with her husband and as you'd expect from someone who worked for Bloomsbury, and did J.K. Rowling's publicity, she has a great eye for children's books. Roz's shelves are stocked with kids books for every age and they are well sourced so that she seems to have just the right selection. Naturally her knowledge of children's titles is extensive, but like all the best bookshop owners she's not slow in pointing out other good titles.

When I visited the shop for the second time she had a pile of Resistance by Agnes Humbert. It's a memoir of WW2 occupied France and it's a gripping read. I know this because Roz virtually ordered me to buy it – in the nicest possible way.

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