There's a lot of things that I like about the Borders (both the English and Scottish sides), high on the list being the excellent bookshops and cafes to be found. This trip has taken in the ever excellent Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells, and the new to me Forum books in Corbridge on the other side of the border. There are more of them in the area, but time is short and the Mainstreet bookshop is a particular favourite, partly because of it's café and deli so it's a must visit. Forum books was a happy find that I only got a few minutes in.
The thing about a good independent book shop is that even when they're quite small they feel like they've got a better choice (certainly for me) than even much bigger chain branches manage. I think this is because good independent book shops give more space to books from independent presses and can give much more space to the books they're personally excited about.
They're also much easier to form a relationship with. When I go to the Mainstreet Bookshop I normally start in the deli and homeware section (coming from the carpark you hit it before you get to the books and café). They have blood oranges (I love these, and they're annoyingly hard to find in supermarkets) and a really interesting selection of gin and other things. The cheese looks good, and if you're after a card, or a present, or a Netherton foundry prospectors pan there will be something. All of this puts me in a good mood for book buying.
Their café is excellent as well which doesn't hurt. The books are the real draw for me though, and I always come away with something. This time I had book tokens to spend and quite a bit of time for browsing. I came away with edition 3 of Elementum which I've wanted for a while, getting it without paying for postage made it feel like a bargain. Alex Woodcock's 'King of Dust' from Little Toller, another book I've been interested in for a bit and couldn't resist once I'd actually seen it, and Charlotte Runcie's 'Salt on Your Tongue' which I'd vaguely heard about and was interested in, but again needed to see.
I might have found the Runcie in my local Waterstones, but they didn't have either of the others. In Forum books I bought 'A Vintage Christmas' which is mostly excerpts from novels with a Christmas theme. It was very much a holiday based impulse purchase, but one which I'm really enjoying. This is book shopping, or even just shopping at it's most enjoyable, and both of these shops are well supported by their local communities. They also give a lot back in terms of events.
One New Years resolution will be to see if I can find more bookshops like this closer to home (Kibworth books is really good, and an excellent place to start).