The Reading Room

Book Hunting in the Lake District

Cumbria’s secondhand bookshops…

I began book collecting ‘proper’ in the early nineties and the lure of a ‘first edition in dust jacket’ took me to bookshops and book fairs across England in the hope of bagging a collectable. One particularly special hunting ground was the Lake District in the North West of England where, at that time, secondhand bookshops could be found in healthy numbers before the combination of eBay and charity shops put a stranglehold on decades old businesses both in Cumbria and England as a whole.

Returning to the area last week I was delighted to find a gem in the small town of Grange over Sands. Daisyroots Books is well stocked with over twenty thousand books on two floors. It was especially pleasing to find them stocking the Dales and Lakes Bookshop Trail Guide-a small pamphlet advertising secondhand bookshops from north to south of the county which I kept in my pocket all those years ago and proved an invaluable guide pre-internet.

There is nothing like the excitement of visiting an antiquarian bookshop for the first time, I arrived ten minutes before the owner was set to close early but still managed to find four vintage Penguin paperbacks before he shut. To see rows of classic literature was a joy and I was especially pleased with finding this copy of The Plague by Albert Camus. I took a gamble on the Graham Greene, unsure if I already had this copy but no!

The following morning I returned and found a Penguin first edition of Kingsley Amis’ classic Lucky Jim, my favourite book of its genre. As happy as I was with my finds I also felt glad to be putting some money the way of the bookshop on a quiet January week. The experience I had in there can never be matched via the Web and once such a shop closes it rarely opens again. Here, for the first time I saw a stunning collection of the Observers Guide series including many first editions which sparked a real sense of nostalgia. For those of you unfamiliar with the series please click here for an example.

I often ask myself how long a bookshop should hold certain titles? When I see rows of twenty year old cookery or gardening books I cannot help but wonder how many of these still appeal to such a degree that makes keeping them worthwhile? Some books just don’t age that well and especially with cookery books when so many were published in the nineties in particular.

Being a bookdealer is not as ‘easy’ as some of us would perhaps like to imagine, I have known several, some have done very well, others less so but for all of them one thing is the same, it is harder than ever to make selling books a viable source of income. As wonderful as the internet can be it can also create real, lasting damage and we must all bear that in mind the next time we search eBay for ‘cheapest item first’.


Categories: The Reading Room

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