Sunday 18 October 2015

Somerset's Bookbarn

School's out for the half-term hols and we've blown town for a week in the country. En route we visited some friends in Bath, and on our way back to the M5 stopped off at the Bookbarn International, one of England's largest second-hand bookshops.

It's a pretty amazing place with a stock that is said to exceed a million books.

Although the only fly in the ointment is that you get to browse a fraction of their stock, which they sell off directly from the shelves at a a pound a copy - save for the children's books which go for a mere 50p a pop. There's a huge number of volumes on the shelves, and nobody can complain about the prices.

There's a lot of fiction on offer, and a fair bit of natural history and travel, but the history section, which is usually a place where I loiter, was lacking in depth and variety. I did find an amazing first edition biography of Diane de Poitiers by none other than Barbara Cartland (!), but couldn't bring myself to take it home, even if it was only a quid. I knew that I'd never get past all the extravagant adverbs and emotional projection.

Emi did better than any of us. He mined a couple of rich seams of material on the unexplained and modern tank warfare. How about Flying Saucers from Outer Space, by Donald E. Keyhoe? A 9 year-old's delight at only a pound. There was also a good selection of fiction for children and young adults, so he was able to stock up on some holiday reading.

The thing is,  I can remember the Bookbarn back in the days when they opened up their second warehouse (with the books that sell for more than a pound). And back then it totally rocked. They had a proper offering of serious material in their specialist subject areas. And the great joy of the whole experience was in turning up some out-of-print gem that you didn't know existed whilst you were rummaging around in your area of interest.

They do still offer the contents of this second warehouse for sale. You can browse their computer catalogue, but you have to search for specific books by author or by title. There's no option to search by subject areas, so the whole browsing experience over this mateial has been lost, and for any serious book-lover that's a big omission.

It's still a good venue to check out if you happen to be passing on the M5, and there's a very acceptable coffee shop, The Full Stop CafĂ©. But my strong advice would be to bring along a list of  titles that you're looking for so that you can search for them in the closed-off sections using their computer catalogue. If they've got them, you can buy them there and then, and take them home with you, making a saving on the on-line cost and postage.

And when you're done if you want to make your way back to the M5 you can take a detour through the amazing Cheddar Gorge.

If you're interested in stopping off you can find their website here: International Bookbarn.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

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