In one of my favourite films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly (played by the wonderful Audrey Hepburn) says ‘I’m just crazy about Tiffany’s . . . Nothing bad could ever happen to you there.’ Holly goes to Tiffany’s when she gets ‘the mean reds’ – when she’s afraid but doesn’t know what she’s afraid of. She says ‘The only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it.’
I feel the same way about bookshops. When I’m feeling a bit edgy and out of sorts, I head to my local bookshop, Dubray Books in Dun Laoghaire. It’s in a not-so-exciting shopping centre but it still manages to be calm, peaceful and lovely. The staff are great too – you can always rely on them for a bit of book-related chat and a friendly smile.
I’ve loved bookshops all my life. After college I had no idea what I wanted to do (apart from write, but that was a dream I never thought would come to anything) so I reached for the nearest life raft – a bookshop.
I’ve worked in bookshops for many years and I’ve loved them all – Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, Hughes and Hughes in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Waterstone’s on Dawson Street (where I ran the children’s department, which I adored), Eason’s Head Office in Santry and now, Dubray Books, where they kindly let me get involved in promoting children’s books and training the children’s booksellers.
When I was in Bath a few weeks ago for the Children’s Literature Festival I visited three amazing bookshops – Waterstone’s, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and Toppings. What a treat!
Waterstone’s has one of the best chain children’s departments I’ve ever seen outside the United States – it’s full of fantastic books for all ages. I particularly loved the table full of wonderfully chosen crossover books from the Chaos Walking trilogy to I Capture the Castle.
I visited Mr B’s with my lovely Walker editor, Annalie Grainger and what a terrific, quirky shop. It’s full of nooks and crannies, armchairs to sit and read in, hand-recommended titles and extremely friendly, helpful booksellers. If I needed a hug in the form of a warm, welcoming bookshop, that’s exactly where I’d head. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel less alone.
For a spiritual pick me up, I’d head to Toppings, in a word it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (I’ve come over all Mary Poppins recently in anticipation of the new movie, Saving Mr Banks, with Emma Thompson as P L Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.) If Bath is like walking around a living, breathing movie set, then Toppings is like stepping into Narnia. It’s truly beautiful – it even smells amazing, musty and woody, like the books’ pages are seeping into the air.
It’s plain wooden shelves are crammed with a huge range of hardbacks and the children’s department is small but magical. I nearly wept with joy when I spotted a copy of Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-ramas nestling on the shelves.
Dublin has its fair share of brilliant bookshops – including the Dubray shops and Gutter Books in Temple Bar, but I must admit I was truly smitten with the bookshops of Bath.
Yours in books (and bookshops),