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My post-lockdown bookshop crawl

With bookshops set to finally be allowed to open again (and about time too), there are a few which I will be desperate to visit as soon as possible. A post-lockdown bookshop crawl, perhaps. There are a few of my favourites I want to go back and immerse myself in, and there are some places which I had planned to visit last year, but Boris and Ferguson said no. Instead, they shuffled us into the gleeful arms of Jeff Bezos, perfectly happy to take the extra business at the expense of real shops.

I’ve mentioned my favourite bookshop in multiple articles before, which is the Treasure Chest in Felixstowe. It is a second-hand bookshop which has been a long-time favourite. You will always find something in any genre or category and always come out with more than you expected as you will get carried away by its collection. It has six rooms of varying sizes, packed full of shelves with books galore. If you dig around, you can probably find anything. They say they have over 50,000 books at a time, not all of them are on the shelves – I think they keep a lot in storage upstairs. Browsing is a must at this shop.

It has a small section for politics, philosophy, and economics books but it is ever changing, so you will always find something you didn’t expect there

One reason I love this shop is the atmosphere – it’s like a collector’s emporium with secrets hidden everywhere. Another reason is that it has everything, and I mean everything. It has a large fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi section. It has a section for classics. It has a copious amount of history books, with a section stuffed full of books on the wars. A large English literature section. It has a small section for politics, philosophy, and economics books but it is ever changing, so you will always find something you didn’t expect there. They also have some large, old, and expensive sets of books in the front room which I think have been there for years. They are railway specialists too, with a section of the front dedicated to railway books. 

I have probably spent more in this bookshop than I would care to admit, according to my list (yes, that spreadsheet again). I have bought 61 books from there in the last few years. The only other bookshop that gives it a run for its money is the local Oxfam. I really don’t like the charity itself but the bookshop near me has too good a selection.

This feels like a more professional collector’s emporium, of course with the price tag to match

The Treasure Chest is hands down the best bookshop I have ever been to. Blackwell’s comes close, but nothing can beat the atmosphere, and the price, of a lovely second-hand bookshop. But, in terms of a full-price bookshop, you can’t go wrong with Blackwell’s in Oxford. This feels like a more professional collector’s emporium, of course with the price tag to match. While the stock doesn’t change as much as a second-hand bookshop, there is just so much to it that you can spend days there without getting bored. Pre-lockdown, the little café was also rather nice. 

You can obviously tell my preference for bookshops when in Blackwell’s. After scouring the upstairs and the downstairs underground room, I always gravitate to the little second-hand section upstairs to see what bargains I may be able to get. As a musical person, I also can’t not mention the Blackwell’s music shop attached to the main shop. When bored it was always nice to have a look through what sheet music they had.

There is one place for bookshops I am desperate to go to in the future, and that is Hay: a place notorious for being a literal treasure chest for book lovers. I had planned to go last year, but that obviously didn’t happen. Hay is known as “the town of books” and apparently has over twenty bookshops. I get the feeling my bank account would be crying in agony if I ever got to go and didn’t limit myself on purchases. 

I feel like if there was any place to have a bookshop crawl it would certainly be Hay – with around two dozen bookshops, it’s certainly on my bucket list. As I had planned to go last Easter/term three, I will try to make it one of the first things I do when I can; the only problem is getting there in the first place and, of course, getting back with what I expect would be a few too many books to carry.

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