Book Haul: Bath’s Best Bookshops

by abookormore

Here’s the deal. I went to three of Bath’s best book shops with my family, and after not being able to browse in book shops for about 4 months, it felt like a dazed dream. Of course I’ve done my fair share of internet shopping but it just doesn’t compare.

I’m really excited to talk about what I bought, but I’m also going to gush a little, tell you what I enjoyed about the shops we visited, and spread the love.

Topping & Company Booksellers

Our first stop was Topping & Company Booksellers. It’s not the largest bookshop, but it can seem a bit intimidating at first with it’s wall-high bookshelves and has so much packed in, you don’t know where to look.

Ah who I am I kidding, it’s a sheer delight.

Topping’s main front room is layed out by genre of book, my favourite sections being their new translated fiction and paperback fiction. However, the best part about Topping for me, is what’s at the back of the shop. A narrow passage brings you into a circular room that is brimming with poetry of all types. In the centre is a large table piled with first edition copies and signed works. It’s glorious.

All of this solidified Topping & Company as my sister’s favourite of our 3 stops. Not to mention the tall ladders on the high shelves that gives the shop that classic aesthetic.

What did I buy?

IMAGINE if I’d just written all that and then didn’t get my hands on one of the poetry books… clownery. But I’m happy to report that I got Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky and I’m chuffed. Kaminsky is a Ukrainian-American poet and I believe this is his second work. Apparently it reads like a play in 2 acts, with each poem being a different scene in the play. The prevalent themes are of war and ignorance, and through it we get to see how different people react and live with conflict.

I’ve previously read a few of the poems in Deaf Republic and loved them, so it won’t be long until I read the rest.

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She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore was my other purchase at Topping & Company. Not only is the cover gorgeously grabbable, the novel’s premise sounds incredible. From the sounds of it we start by being taken from character to character, starting in a West African village where there’s a girl who just can’t die. Then, we’re taken to a plantation where one of the men there is struggling to hide his unbelievable strength, and there’s someone in Jamaica who can turn invisible and so on. You get the picture.

Our cast of characters are forced to hide and escape in different ways, and are unltimately brought together. From this begins a narrative of Liberia’s early years. So instead of, say, the action sci-fi tumble that is X-men, the vibe of this is more historical magical realism. I’m hoping for something beautiful and hard-hitting.

Mr B’s Emporium

Our next stop was Mr B’s Emporium, which is an absolute essential for any booklover checking out Bath. It’s got awards, and you can tell. It’s adorned wonderfully; the highlights being an exciting children’s area and an upstairs scattered with cosy armchairs to sink into. The majority of their fiction is not layed out in genre like Topping’s, but the classic A-Z by author. This meant I was easily able to find specific books I wanted, but it’s potentially less ‘browsable’ without a plan.

That being said, Mr B’s was both of my parents favourite shop due to their excellent wall of staff recommendations. So if in doubt,you could just pick any of those books up- I’m sure they won’t let you down. This was also my brother’s fiancé’s favourite of our stops. She enjoyed the great YA collection in the emporium as well as commending the lovely and helpful staff.

What did I buy?

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As I said, I knew I’d be able to get the specific books I wanted, one of which being There There by Tommy Orange.

I knew that I wanted to read some Native American work and when I heard this novel being discussed on the podcast Books Unbound, I was sold. It’s about different groups of people journeying up to a powwow, which is a Native American Indian ceremony with feasts and dancing. That already grabbed me because as (is probably obvious) this is something I know nothing about. The blurb tells us that someone has come to the powwow with dark intentions, which of course just adds to the intrigue.

The author Tommy Orange is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapho Nations of Oklahoma so I’m really looking forward to this own-voice story.

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Next up, and most definitely the weirdest of my random pile, is The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli. This book came to my attention as I was looking for some Mexican literature to read, and there was no way I could forget it.

Our main character is an auctioneer who is selling off his collection of famous peoples’ teeth. Yeh, you read that right. Not only that, he’s selling his collection because he needs the funds to buy the perfect set of teeth for himself. And now, if my calculations are correct, you’re agreeing with me that The Story of My Teeth sounds fascinatingly strange.

As I was browsing Mr B’s Emporium with book in hand, a member of staff commented on how much they loved this book, and how intelligent the author was. They even went on to recommend Luiselli’s newest work which made me even more confident in my decision to give this a good go. (Isn’t people affirming your book buying decisions the best feeling?)

Skoobs Books

Then for a complete change of pace, we headed to Skoobs for some second-hand book shopping. Skoobs can be found in Bath’s Guildhall market, so it’s not a place you’d just happen to pass by, but it’s certainly worth seeking out.

Skoobs is a stall that fits a much greater collection of books than you’d think was possible in such a space, which made it the highlight of my brother’s shopping trip. In fact, it was the only stop of ours where everyone brought more than 1 book- the selection was that good.

The owner there was also very friendly and ready to help direct you to the right stack of books if needed.

What did I buy?

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The Blinding Knife is the second book in Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series, following The Black Prism. I didn’t particularly set out to get this continuation, but when I saw it sat so proudly on the shelf at it’s beautiful discount price, it kind of felt like a sign.

It’s been a while since I started this series, but from what I can remember, it’s an adult fantasy where certain individuals have magic that comes from specific colours. For example, some folks can wield the colour red (they tend to love a bit of fire action), some people wield green and you know, they love a good field, and so forth. The leader in this fantasy land is a man called the Prism who has the ability to use magic through all the different colours. This unfortunately comes with a price though, because using magic takes years off your lifespan. This novel kicks off when the Prism realises he has a son he never knew about. Talk about drama.

I remember really enjoying the political intrigue and the magic system of this, so hyped to move forward with it.

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And last but not least, I bought Arundhati Roy’s much praised and loved The God of Small Things. I’m always drawn to fiction by women from other cultures and this appears often in book lists about women from around the world. So again, when I saw this at Skoobs it was a no brainer.

That aside, I don’t know a lot about it, except that it’s set in India and it’s about an eclectic family. From the description it looks like we have a die hard marxist, a violinist, and an ex-nun among others in this family.

But it won the Booker prize, it’s applauded often for its intelligence and beauty, so who am I to ask questions.

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And that was my haul!

Thank you for reading, and I hope that more and more people soon get the opportunity urtunity to visit these brilliant bookshops.

Let me know if you’ve recently bought any books your excited to get into, or maybe tell me a bit about your favourite bookshop?

So long, and stay safe x