Monday, February 21, 2005

The Book Loft

I didn’t expect to be able to make tonight’s Book Group (I was to have been at the Wedding Present gig, but less said about all that the better). Accordingly I hadn’t worried too much that I hadn’t managed to track down a copy of J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, in time to read it for tonight. The first of the two stories collected here is only 30 pages, so maybe if I can grab 30 minutes in the car before we meet…

With this plan in mind I manage to get away from work sharpish and head to my favourite second hand bookshop in the world, the W@rrington Book Loft (handily open to 7pm most nights).

Situated in part of an ugly old factory building with an unimposing sign over the stairway, you could drive past every day and never realise it was there. But any book lover who finds it, is bound to return. It’s a fairly rough and ready place (no aesthetically pleasing wooden avenues of bookcases filtering dusty sunlight here I’m afraid, strictly modern muddle, carpet tiles and strip lighting), but it’s a total temple to books and the quiet and peaceful perusal of such. Handwritten signs remind customers that this is a haven of quiet, so please turn off your mobiles. By the door sits a crate of books that are presumably un-sellable and another handwritten sign invites the passer-by to help themself. I’ve never found anything in this free pile that I would want, but I kind of like the fact that this is an establishment that would rather try and find them a free home then dream of discarding them.

The myriad shelves in the loft itself are stacked with a wide range of literature. What can’t fit on the jumbled assortment of mismatching shelves and racks, are kept out back. The woman who runs the loft appears to have a complete database in her head as to the current stock (trust me this is not the kind of place that would countenance the presence of a computer!). Regularly I ring up to enquire after titles and 90% of the time she’ll know off the top of her head whether she has a copy of even the more obscure titles. I can’t even find books on my own bookcases; the woman is a scientific marvel!

She is also everything you could want from someone who deals with books, the librarian dress-sense is complemented with a matching demeanour of calm, quiet helpfulness. Altogether this creates a place that says “come and see these wonderful books, have a leaf-through, stumble upon titles you’d never think to search for on Amazon, feel how much these books have been loved, maybe you’ll be the next person to love this tome, or how about this one here, stay awhile, escape from the rush of modern life, browse, ssshhhhh…”.

Consequently I’m lulled into taking the time to trawl some shelves whilst I’m there and hence wave goodbye to any thoughts of grabbing some pre-meeting reading time. Needless to say I also don’t manage to leave with just the Salinger; but 5 books for under £9 is a bargain by anyone’s standards.

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