My love affair with books has been life-long and beautiful. Books – all manner of them – offer me a safe, non-judgemental haven where I can inhabit other worlds, away from the noise and judgement of this life. In books I feel comforted, safe and protected. Handling a book, opening a book gives me such joy, that I need to feed my addiction many times daily.
Independent bookshops are places of profound safety and spirituality for me, like a church or a religious establishment, to me there is something religious about words on a page, bound in paper or cardboard or leather.
I have many favourite independent books in the world but for this post I want to celebrate the life of Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland.
Barter Books is a sublime independent bookshop, the self-acclaimed birthplace of the KEEP CALM CARRY ON popular culture craze that reached a peak a few years ago.
Books and especially second-hand books are for me a tactile delight. I love the softness of pages, the scent, the little notations that people in history have left in them. I get goosebumps every time I spy a gorgeous tome from the past, with a first-edition cover and a publishing date from decades ago. I collect second-hand books and first editions. The weight of them, their presence, the words within them are my guiding light, always eight-dimensional in every respect, offering many slices of history – who owned the book, who published the book, who wrote the book, who handled the book, who sat with it on a tram or a train or on a ship and held it on their lap, what eyes ran across the pages sparking thoughts of escape, thoughts of love, thoughts of sadness.
Barter Books in Northumberland is a book museum and religiously adores these purveyors of all wisdom that is human. Shakespeare and Company in Paris is another favourite of mine, but there are so many, too many to visit.