October 6, 2022

5 best independent bookshops in Somerset 2022

09:47 22 August 2022

10:07 23 August 2022

There seem to be fewer of them these days, but there’s always something special about a good old-fashioned bookstore. Here are 5 of Somerset’s best, says Catherine Courtenay.

Garnish and company

The new home of Topping and Company
– Credit: Saskia

Bath has one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Topping and Company opened in Bath in 2007 from a store in the Paragon.

Last year he moved to a large Georgian building near the Abbey, the Friends’ former meeting house. This means it can house over 75,000 books and host many author events. Owners Robert and Louisa Topping have three other stores across the country.

The new Bath store spans two floors. It has a gallery and is equipped with handcrafted bookcases and rolling bookcase ladders. It is very easy to spend a few hours in this beautiful building, sitting on a comfortable seat or sofa and enjoying a tea or coffee while browsing inspiring book titles.

Blackdowns Library

The New Wellington Bookshop by the Blackdowns

The New Wellington Bookshop by the Blackdowns
– Credit: Wilde Design Co

Wellington has a good number of independent shops, one of the latest additions being Bookshop by the Blackdowns. It opened last December and is a family business with retired teacher Richard D’Rozario at the helm, and Sue and Joey playing vital roles in the business.

A community bookstore and space for people to share their love of reading, they sell new publications, classics and old favorites and anything they don’t have in stock can be ordered.

In addition to picture books for preschoolers and children’s books, the store also has a good line of young adult fiction. Ever-changing reading lists highlight their hand-picked books spanning all genres. They also host author events, with visits from Emma Carroll and Hazel Prior in recent months.

Brendon’s Books

Brendon Books is a long standing Taunton institution

Brendon Books is a long standing Taunton institution
– Credit: Brendon Books

Taunton’s Brendon Books is a non-profit community interest company run by Jo and Lionel Ward since 1989. It is located in one of Taunton’s independent shopping areas, Bath Place, a small pedestrianized street in the town centre. Outside, tables laden with books and inside new and used books jostle on the shelves. There is also an excellent map section.

Lists of books on various topics highlight recommended readings.

As well as publishing LAMP, an arts magazine for the Taunton area, Jo and Lionel are the founders and organizers of the Taunton Literary Festival which is now in its 11th year and runs throughout the fall. Festival events can be booked online and this year include a talk by Robert Harris.

Bailey Hill Bookstore

Bailey Hill Bookshop's changing window displays included one for the Jubilee

Bailey Hill Bookshop’s changing window displays included one for the Jubilee
– Credit: Alexander Ballinger

Independent bookstores that have survived the Kindle and Amazon onslaught have to offer something special, and with all the shops mentioned here, Bailey Hill Bookstore in Castle Cary does just that.

It has been around for over 40 years, its current owners took over in 2003, and its success lies in providing specialist knowledge, selling books from national and international publishers, as well as independents, and a service of Incredibly fast delivery for any books that need to be ordered.

It’s also a place to hang out, browse the shelves and discover new books. It also hosts special events, including a talk at the city’s Market House on October 21 by Rebecca Lowe.

His book, The slow road to Tehranrecounts his cycling trip from London to Tehran.

Rothwell and Dunworth

Find an amazing selection of used and antiquarian books at Rothwell & Dunworth in Dulverton

Find an amazing selection of used and antiquarian books at Rothwell & Dunworth in Dulverton
– Credit: Rothwell & Dunworth

If you love rummaging through old books and discovering hard-to-get or long-forgotten treasures, head to Dulverton. With its mix of independent shops and fabulous countryside setting, Exmoor town is always worth exploring, but Rothwell & Dunworth makes a trip here even more special.

Founded in 1975, Rothwell & Dunworth specializes in antiquarian and second-hand books. Spread over two floors, it has sections covering all areas of interest, including art, history, travel and literature.

Regularly visiting all parts of the UK and researching books overseas, he has rare finds including first editions.

Its children’s section is guaranteed to delight, unearthing happy memories of childhood reading and there is excellent local interest and an Exmoor section.