Scarthin Books, Cromford, DerbyshireIf you love books, Scarthin’s will make you weep. This gem of a shop has three floors of books, old and new, stuffed into every corner. It has a rickety Harry Potter vibe - held up purely by stacks of books and magic. There was even a fundraiser to ensure it didn’t collapse. It’s now better (and safer) than ever.
Along with whole rooms dedicated to Art, Music, and Children, Scarthin’s is creative in its categorising. There used to be a shelf labelled “all of them witches” for their Wiccan/Occult section (which I adored as a teen goth), a shelf near the ceiling of “old books too beautiful to hide”, and an eye-openingly generous section on Cats. You will leave wanting a bigger house.
There’s a wee vegetarian café upstairs and loads of nooks and crannies to explore. Stay a couple of hours! Before the refurb, someone had stuck up a photo of an ambiguous object, asking what it was. I wrote “a weapon of mass destruction” and by my next visit “a real and present danger” had been added.
Book people are the best people, and Scarthin’s is always staffed by bright young things. I was looking at Chomsky’s latest offering and was told “he has written better books”, before being guided over to the epic Politics section.
The layout is dreamy too, having to duck and squeeze through all those old tomes. It would be a wonderful place to take a date; peering over each other’s shoulders and getting to know their taste (one of my first dates with my partner involved browsing films in CeX - a huge success). Scarthin Books is a Labyrinth, a Pandora’s Box, an Aladdin’s Cave. It is one of my fave places on earth.
Click here to visit the Scarthin Books website
Five Leaves Bookshop, City Centre, NottinghamI’ve only just visited this place, even though it’s been open a few years now. It sits up an alleyway off Market Square, near to not-quite-bookshop The Works. If Scarthin’s is an old wizard, Five Leaves is its younger and hipper cousin.
Five Leaves attracts a radical yet very polite crowd, and the staff leave you alone. Somebody even apologised for having to walk around me, which is amazing as this never happens (I am small, meek and constantly apologising for my own existence). It’s a lovely place for an introvert to go when Nottingham city centre gets too much. I should probably buy something next time though!
Being a one-room shop, they have to be discerning - so you get the best of everything. This is a bookshop run by people who really appreciate knowledge and want to share it with you. It’s all killer and no filler. There are lots of interesting titles that I remember from English Lit and Performing Arts.
You’ll also notice pretty early on that it’s fabulously left-wing. If you’re fond of the phrase “Social Justice Warrior” or “Loony Left”, you may want to sod off sharpish. I enjoyed the choice of Corbyn books, colourful selection of cultures and worldviews, and indie publishers. Five Leaves’ heroes are your heroes. It’s a safe space, down to the noticeboard of therapy hotlines and yoga classes.
Click here to visit the Five Leaves website
Have you got a favourite bookshop near you?