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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