Independent Bookshop Week is upon us. And we’re paying tribute to the unsung hughstreet gems, those cosy spots packed with passionate booksellers and teeming shelves that are the staple of the Saturday shop. We asked some of our team to nominate their favourite independent bookshops and tell us what makes them so special…
The Ennis Bookshop – Ennis

“On the narrow pathway of Abbey Street, nestled between Tierney’s, who sell bikes and fishing tackle and jigsaws, and the other Tierney’s, who sell hard-boiled apple drops and Chomp bars and 99s, lies a purple doorway with a wooden figure of Albert Einsten standing outside. Einstein is holding a stack of books, appropriate as he belongs to the magnificent menagerie of reading material that lies behind the purple door, The Ennis Bookshop. This shop has been providing the residents and tourists of the County Clare town with books for over fifty years, but more than that it has been a place of wonder, joy and solace: a haven for children desperate for their next adventure; teenagers discovering Charlotte Bronte and Frank Herbert for the first time; adults getting lost in local histories and tales of worldwide travel. It is a refuge and a university all in one, ably run by the family team of Dervilla and Feargal.” – Deirdre Nolan

Wonderland Bookshop – Retford

“I’m a huge fan of Wonderland Bookshop in Retford. Their décor is on point – there’s a tea party on the ceiling, card soldiers lining the bookshelves and their window displays are fabulously creative. They believe that children’s books are magic – that they have the power to change lives – and this idea is reflected in every square inch of the shop. I can only imagine how much fun it is to visit Wonderland as a child. They also have something called a Treat Your Shelf wall, where they pin vouchers that have been donated by previous customers. Visitors are free to take one and redeem it at the till – some vouchers are for a free copy of a specific book, others offer an amount of money towards a purchase. All in all, it’s a delightfully whimsical shop with the customer experience front of mind.” – Stephanie Milton

Armchair Books – Edinburgh

This is a second-hand & antiquarian bookshop in Edinburgh. It’s in the West Port, a steep street above Grassmarket, so the shop is surrounded by alleyways, a cat café and Edinburgh Castle looming overhead. From the outside it’s just a wall of books and the interior is piled high with everything from Alexander McCall Smith to Punch annuals from 1834. The walls are essentially made of books and I spent many a day between university classes diving into the maze of sweet-smelling leather bound literature.” – Rachel Morrell

Owl Bookshop – Kentish Town

“I’ve spent more than my fair share of time and salary in Owl Bookshop – it was a staple part of my weekend routine before I moved further afield.  The shop is split down the middle between children’s and adult, does a great second-hand selection and a fantastic roster of author events of all genres, often profiling local authors or books set in and around North London. Their staff seem to know everything and everyone – super friendly, very good at upselling to customers (I often loiter just to earwig on their sales pitches) and really know the books.” – Lucy Dundas

Kim’s Bookshop – Arundel and Chichester

Arundel is renowned for its antique and vintage stores, and no trip is complete without a visit to Kim’s – browsing the shelves of its Tardis-like interior and climbing the steep steps ever upwards to see what further treasures await upstairs. New titles sit alongside well-thumbed second-hand books and rare copies. The sister Chichester bookshop is another firm favourite: a welcoming haven hidden beneath a jet black awning and well worth a visit any time you’re in town. Their local book delivery service – dropping a sanitised parcel of fresh books on the doorstep – saved my sanity during lockdown. Future Francis Bourgeoises rejoice: customer reviews suggest their collection of railway books is particularly impressive.” – Alex Riddle

Topping & Company – Edinburgh and St. Andrews

The Edinburgh branch of this independent is a book lover’s dream inside an old bank – sky-high shelves with ladders to reach classic books, special editions and niche subject matter. The building is huge and behind the arched windows there are sofas and tables to settle in. The staff are incredible and really make you feel as though you can stay all day, they even give you the occasional coffee. I also love the St Andrew’s branch which always has something going on to warm you up after a dog walk on the beach.” – Rachel Morrell


“Bookshops have always been sacred to me: portals to other worlds, safe havens. One of my favourite days out is a visit to Hay-on-Wye, a quaint and historic town just on the Welsh-English border. Referred to as the ‘First Booktown in the World’, it is home to a whole host of brilliant bookshops from general stock shops to map specialists and a shop celebrating the golden age of crime. Against the rolling backdrop of gorgeous Welsh mountains and countryside, everything about this town fills me with bookish joy.” – Leonie Lock

The Bookseller Crow – Crystal Palace

“A shout-out to The Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace. A community gem fostering local pride in even a rookie southeast Londoner like myself, this lovely indie trades in history and paraphernalia about the area, as well as showcasing local writing talent. Now 26 years young, it’s still run by the hugely knowledgeable, and personable, founder-owners; and boasts thoughtful, intersectionally-minded curation, as well as standout crime and kids’ sections. For proof of their impeccable taste, look no further than our very own E. Lockhart gracing the (gloriously Pride-minded) shelves of Teen-ish Fiction.” – Anna Perkins