Just as MP3s will never replace the sheer joy of a trip to a record shop, kindles for all their convenience will never replace your favourite book shop.
Caitlin Andrews does a round-up of her favourite book shops in Liverpool.
Henry Bohn Books
12 London Rd, City Centre, Liverpool L3 5NF
Henry Bohn Books is the type of place that you inevitably find yourself wandering into due to an unwavering sense of curiosity. You stumble across something quaint and lovely; whether that be an old pressing of an Ella Fitzgerald record, a dusty copy of Tess of the D’Urbevilles, or a precious teapot which has been lying there for the past ten years, and feel so charmed by it that you have to unexplainable inclination to buy it. Nestled on the corner of London Road, it can easily be overlooked as the charming book store next to the grand Empire Theatre, but once visited, you will feel compelled to return the next time it’s within eyesight. The shrill bell rings as you enter, signifying the next on looker’s curiosity, and it serves as a direct and start contrast to Michael, the shop owner, whose quiet disposition correlates with the tranquil atmosphere of the store. The crackly sound of Billie Holiday’s voice is pleasantly audible as you roam the bookshelves in awe; perhaps catching tiny snippets of Michael’s conversations on the arguably archaic telephone, that often consist of him politely talking to potential buyers about collectibles and varying editions of books and records he stocks. If you’d rather visit an immaculately stocked bookshop, completely with recent prizewinners stocked on an A-Z bookshelf, then this isn’t the place for you. There is only a mere sense of organisation amongst the shelves, and even the vaguely noticeable labels on them only act as a slight indication of what may lie there. However, this whimsical, old fashioned approach to bookselling is just how they like it, and the more traditional bibliophiles would not change this in a heartbeat.
News from Nowhere
96 Bold St, Liverpool L1 4HY
Renowned as one of Liverpool’s favourite independent bookshops, News from Nowhere is much more than simply a bookshop. Since 1974, it has been the home of countless social justice campaigns, a safe place for subversive activity, and most importantly, a book shop which aims to cultivate a rich, diverse and constantly growing collection of literature. As you walk in, you’re greeted by the quirky greeting card stand which lies in the doorway; one with an image of Virginia Woolf on the front, adorned with a photoshopped flower crown on her head and accompanied by the literary pun “Have a rum of one’s own!”, arguably one of the most suitable greeting cards for the literary lover. Or a rum lover, I suppose… To the left of this punny greeting card stand lies another, yet this one has various magazines perched upon it. It’s one of those collections of artsy magazines, riddled with the new indie music scene and local art exhibitions in Liverpool. In fact, the exclusively art and music based pieces which overlap each other may even fool the odd on looker that the content has been scrutinised and debated on and talked avidly about, preceding actually being put out on the shelves, due to the store’s strong political views and careful consideration regarding what they expose their customers to. News From Nowhere is incredibly popular amongst tourists, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Reid of Liverpool
105 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool L3 5TB
Impressively, Reid’s is the one of the only surviving Georgian retail premises in the whole of the city – built in 1785 and still increasingly growing their extensive collection. There is no doubt that the place has aged hard; with wrinkles and crinkles being prominent in the old pages of the paperbacks, the broken spines and the slightly musty, distinct smell of the antique pages. It’s a chaotic wonderland; one which would cause any given Virgo a nervous breakdown, infused with the later revelling in the extensive possibilities of escapism riddled between the lines. It feels like home, in a way. Jerry, the owner, sits cosily adjacent to the fireplace in the store, often indulging in his escapist tendencies too. He doesn’t believe in the intelligent, computerized suggestions of what ‘best seller’ you should read next, and nor does he believe in categorising anything. Yes, this is more than enough to send one into an OCD-induced frenzy, but there is no denying that this sense of almost exceptional disorder is actually quite comforting. It’s a popular spot for loyal customers who return again and again, seeking the truly nostalgic feel which accompanies each visit to this artfully dishevelled gem.
The Bluecoat, School Ln, Liverpool L1 3BX
Tucked away in one of the most charming courtyards in the city lies Kernaghan books, which has survived past the thirty year mark, thanks to the endearing couple, Brian and Alwyn, who lovingly own it. Despite the seemingly quaint exterior, this more meticulous bookstore holds over fifteen thousand titles ranging from The Shining, to Wuthering Heights, to David Walliams’ biography. The couples’ adoration for books is rooted in their teenage years, and their love for sharing some inspiring stories with their customers and moving them emotionally is undoubtedly the principle reason for the vivid endurance of this pleasantly old fashioned book hive.