Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Books and Bookshops

Bookshops are beautiful places. Before it closed earlier this year, New York's Rizzoli bookstore was one of the most elegant interiors in Manhattan; second only to The Plaza, the New York Public Library, the NoMad Hotel, Ralph Lauren's flagship stores, and my favourite dining hideaway, Caffe Storico.

Heywood Hill in London's Mayfair would have to be the quintessential antiquarian bookshop: cute black-and-white facade; creaking floorboards, and bookshelves heaving with history and titles – many of them saved from great old English estates whose libraries have been sold to pay for death taxes.

(Heywood Hill is also a fascinating place to see who's still reading books. There are always piles of brown paper parcels addressed to names like 'Devonshire', as in Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, who co-owns the bookstore, and Hugh Grant. Last time I was there, I saw a girl wrapping up some books for Hugh. You'd be surprised if you knew what he was reading. It was impressive.)

Other wonderful bookshops include the elegant Galignani in Paris (above), and the very pretty Potterton Books in Chelsea, London, which specialises in new, antique, out-of-print and unusual books in gardens, architecture, design, interior decoration, antiques and the decorative arts.

(Potterton's owner also has an enormous book barn full of books in Thirsk, North Yorkshire – The Old Rectory, Sessay, Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Contact: tel: +44 1845 501218.)

In London's South Kensington (Gloucester Road), Slightly Foxed Bookshop is another charming bookshop with 100-year-old windows and a wonderful basement of great secondhand titles, including design, gardening, architecture and many other books, such as intriguing biographies.

The shop used to be owned by Graham Greene's nephew Nick Dennys, who ran it along eccentric lines, leaving a key under the mat for regular customers when he wasn’t in the shop.

Don't you love bookshops like that?

This Saturday, August 9th is National Bookshop Day.

It's the day when we should all support our favourite bookstores. I know many of us buy a lot of our books online but it's more important than ever to buy books from stores too, especially considering the very real danger that Amazon may become a monopoly distribution channel. (Imagine one company having control over all the books in the world? Imagine if they hiked prices sky high, which they're already starting to do?)

Many of us do continue to buy books in stores. Avenue Bookstore (my favourite Australian bookstore) told me that last Christmas was the busiest sales period it's had in decades. (I know: I saw the queues.) The Strand in New York (another great bookstore) said last Christmas was the busiest it's ever had, in its entire 87-year history. There's nothing like a bookstore to browse in, whether sunny or wet, morning or night, alone or with book-loving company.

I can't imagine a world without bookstores. Let's hope there's enough people who think that, and continue to split their book purchases between online and in-store.

Buy a book from a bookstore this weekend. Here are a few lovely ideas from our library to inspire you...

[All books from our home. Please excuse the poor quality photographs.}


  1. Fabulous collection of books!

  2. Wonderful post, Jsnelle! I love a traditional book shop and always enjoy browsing through people's book shelves. Your photo of the Chanel books reminded me of the photographic book The Little Black Jacket featuring people wearing the same Chanel jacket......:-)

  3. Wonderful post, Janelle! I love 'old' bookshops and browsing friends' bookshelves. The photo of Chanel books reminded of a beautiful photography book The Little Black Jacket featuring people wearing the same little black Chanel jacket in all sorts of ways........ :-)


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