Most committed readers, I have no doubt, have their favourite bookshops.
Sanctuarys that they feel have something special, some indefinable quality that sets them apart. A large part of this is the books, of course, but it’s more than that.
My sister, I know, swears by Berkelouws in Cronulla south of Sydney.
One good friend favours the Constant Reader on Sydney’s lower north shore, while another insists you can’t do better than Gleebooks. In Sydney’s Glebe, as you might expect.
A long time friend who has an abiding passion for plants and gardens is, not surprisingly, remarkably fond of the horticultural bookstore Florilegium, once again to be found in Glebe.
My wife’s brother, a reader of some passion, will rarely venture beyond the very fine Rosetta Books in Maleny, set high along the spectacular ridgeline a little to the north of Brisbane.
His sister, on the other hand, is enthralled by the sheer number of intriguing books in Blackwell’s in Oxford UK and especially the overwhelming presence of all those wonderfully arcane academic volumes.
I have a soft spot for the whole town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, which is like one big bookshop, or to be more precise a couple of dozen bookshops all squeezed into one small town.
But my absolute favourite is even a little further afield. It’s the Bookshop in County Kerry’s Kenmare town, on Ireland’s west coast. The town is a little gem, one of the loveliest anywhere and the bookshop doesn’t let it down.
But there’s more to it than a small, quaint and charming façade. The Kenmare shop is, for me, the Tardis of bookshops. The wide world of anticipation awaiting you indoors, the opportunity to whet your every literary appetite, seems almost impossible given the shop’s oh so tiny exterior.
Their secret I think is that, unlike so many larger bookshops, every book here appears to be a gem, something you want to pick up and take home. What this shop may not offer in quantity is more than made up for in quality.
All four walls of the cosy room are lined from floor to ceiling with carefully selected Irish history, Irish literature and biography, poetry and music. A few steps beyond you’ll find a fine selection of modern fiction (with luck a new book will be added soon), non-fiction and childrens books, the shelves that define the centre of the space are dedicated to reference books on subjects as diverse as horses, fine art and photography and an eclectic collection of others.
And to top it all off, near the door, a complete set of Ordnance Survey maps, the large scale topographical maps of the region, accompanied by comprehensive guide books to all the great local walks and climbs. Two of my favourite things.
In spite of the space being small it’s quite possible to spend an hour or so quietly browsing before heading off for a coffee or a pint.
Which reminds me, we have other favourites in the Kenmare/Kerry area and I’ve taken the libery of adding a few pictures of them below, just in case you’re ever in the region and are looking for something to do. Mind you, I hasten to add that this is just scratching the surface.