I am rarely in a bookshop. Well, rarely for a bookworm. Living as I do, some 20 miles from the nearest Waterstones, a visit to the bookshop is a planned activity. No casual falling into the bookshop on lunch breaks for me. (Just as well, really.) So I’ve decided that in 2014, I’m going to review every bookshop I visit to determine my bookshop of the year.
This year’s bookshop visiting starts in Edinburgh’s Quartermile with the new kid on the block, Looking Glass Books, which opened in May 2012.
The official banner from the website gives the impression of a spacious, glossy establishment. In reality the shop is a narrow rectangle divided lengthwise, one half devoted to the coffee shop clientele and the other to the bookshelves.
This is as close to Ellen’s bookshop (anyone remember that series) as I’m likely to encounter – a very cosy atmosphere, in which it is possible to browse, chat, and peruse the books at your leisure. And I did just that, at that little chess table, bottom right. I spent at least an hour in the shop, wishing I could speak to the book buyer. (S)he and I have much in common. The shelves, built like alcoves along the wall, form three sections: fiction, non-fiction and children’s. It is obvious that the youngsters enjoy the shop as much as the adults. One young girl sat on her granddad’s knee, listening as he read to her for the whole hour I was there. Nor was there any pressure for them to move on. Admittedly I was visiting at 4pm mid-week. I can imagine things being a little more pressured on a busy Saturday afternoon … or even during the Edinburgh festival. The shop is literally seconds from the main thoroughfare through the Meadows. Note to self: go back in August and see if you can get through the door …..
For now though, let me take you for a trip through the small but very tasteful fiction section. Arranged alphabetically, with shelves/enclaves/havens showcasing some my favourite independent presses. I have never seen anything like it in Scotland. it’s how I’d like my own library to look, only I have far too many books on the shelves. Cue pictures of bookshop shelves – unfortunately the lighting wasn’t to the liking of the camera on my mobile phone.
Now for the key indicator of success. Did this shop persuade me to part with my pennies? Let’s just say, I never go into a book shop just to browse and so the question should be did the shop tempt me to overspend? Fortunately I’d decided that I was only going to buy books previously unheard of. Which was just as well because with all those favourite presses in view, the temptation factor was off the scale. Other customers obviously hadn’t come so well-defended. I saw people leaving with armfuls of books – none of which were discounted. As for myself I left with 3 books, costing 150% of my projected spending budget.
They were packaged in an eco-friendly but not-so-practical-for-a-rainy-afternoon brown paper bag. Fortunately I had a proper rainproof book-bag with me and so could shield my purchases from the deluge that was waiting outside – and avoid buying one of the many original bookbags that were hanging around just begging to be added to my collection. I also resisted the rather delicious looking macaroons that lay in wait at the cafe-cum-bookshop till. I’ll not be doing that the next time I visit!
Ambience – Cosy, comfortable, a browser’s paradise 10/10
Distance from home – A mid-range 50.3 miles. 6/10
Literary deliciousness – Perfect for me and the kiddies, not so great for genre lovers 8/10
Packaging – Adequate, not ideal 5/10
Will I return? Without a shadow of a doubt! There’s a macaroon with my name on it! 10/10
Average score: 8.2