Last month I heard rumours of a fantastic new independent bookshop in St Andrews. It has taken me just over 4 weeks to travel 90 miles to the Kingdom of Fife to browse for myself.  Fortuitously I had need of a destination for my wedding anniversary weekend.  Before you say anything, Rossetti was happily ensconced in the husband creche ….

My source had warned me of the temptations of floor to ceiling shelves packed with signed first editions.  So I entered the threshold steeled against the oft-used wiles good independent bookstores.  And then, I saw the stuff of my fantasies materialise before my eyes …..

Is this a ladder I see before me?

The ladders are not just for cosmetic purposes.  Those shelves are high …  and they are packed with books.  In fact, apart from a couple of card stands, this shop is full of my favourite commodity. No distracting displays of pen, pencils, notebooks and e-readers.  This is a bona-fide  book-shop … with strategically placed nooks and comfy seats for bibliophiles to bide their time and browse their potential purchases.  There’s complimentary tea and coffee too. The company owner has gone on record as saying that he is “too jealous of the space” to put a café in one of his shops.  So your choice of beverage is brought to you on a tray and you are left to browse in peace and comfort.

Book browsing with a brew ….

 I particularly liked that the fiction section was divided into hardback and paperback sections, but not by genre. This led to some interesting relationships on the shelves.

Goddard, Goethe, Gogol

In line with Mark Forsyth’s essay “The Unknown Unknown” these days I enter bookshops looking for books that I don’t know exist. I found more than my fair share on this expedition.  For reference: The Burglar Caught by A Skeleton, The Girl who Couldn’t Read, and The Year of Reading Dangerously.  However, this is the book I would have bought, 

Unknown Unknowns


had I read the book next to it. Weimar was the unknown unknown I purchased last time I was in a bookstore. Weimar Thought, now a known unknown, must remain so for the time being.

As it turned out, I came away with two books that have long been on my wishlist.


The Death of Lomond Friel’s moment came because it is set in St Andrews, and I was reminded of Pure, while I was sitting enjoying my tea.  I spotted a signed first edition in the locked cabinet.  Budget wouldn’t run to £85 but it could stretch to the price of a signed paperback.  Wrapped to maintain its pristine condition, I may add. 

When my source told me of this fantastic bookshop, located 10 minutes from his work, “Oh dear” was my response.  He knew exactly what I meant. Fortunately Topping & Co is 2 hours away from me, though I don’t think this will be the first and last time I pass through its doors …

A final (?) lingering look …