I have a rather unnatural obsession with secondhand books and my house is filled with them. The historian in me loves the idea that someone has read and probably enjoyed a book before me. I always wonder how they perceive the story or if the words effected them the way they effect me. Although I love my technology, I can’t ever see me ditching books in favour of a Kindle or any other ebook device. I know they’re easier to carry around and, obviously, take up hell of a lot less space but I just couldn’t give up that smell. Luckily there are loads of places near me that sell used books but nothing feeds my addiction quite like Bookbarn International in Paulton, Somerset which is where we headed on Sunday.
We got there about lunchtime so headed to the closet pub and took our chances, not knowing the area that well. Boy, did we pick the right place. Pulling into the car park of The Old Station Inn you can’t help but notice the old GWR railway carriage in the back garden. As you walk a little closer you realise there are people sitting inside it, eating food, and that it is actually attached to the back of the pub.
Inside was just as surreal with every available inch of wall, floor and ceiling space crammed with random objects. There were office and pub signs hanging from the ceiling, old 45s arranged on a wall, a vintage bicycle hanging next to them, a huge dust covered wine rack, books, boxes, a gramophone, a record player, horse paraphernalia and a multitude of weird and wonderful things. But the best object of all was the front end of an old Citreon stuck to a wall as it if it had just crashed through it. The food wasn’t bad either!
Once we’d finished our enormous helping of Sunday roast it was onto the books. Bookbarn International is housed in a huge warehouse and claims to have over 1 million secondhand books, with the majority of them being £1 each. They have a small collection of collectibles such as signed copies and first editions which are, obviously, more expensive.
When you get inside the sheer number can be overwhelming with rows and rows and rows of bookcases. However, everything is arranged as carefully as it can be with non-fiction at the front, all labeled on the end of each row, fiction on the sides in alphabetical order and classics (my favourite area) at the end of the middle section. At the bottom is a large area of yet to be sorted books of all genres. There is even an area specially dedicated to old Penguin books, which are a particular fetish of mine, and I have to scour each row to make sure I don’t miss anything.
The whole place has a really relaxed vibe with a quiet radio playing in the background, people lounging on the floor or curled up in a corner reading a book, deciding whether to buy it or not, and the gentle tinkle of tea cups coming from the small cafe. You can lose hours there, as we did, and still wish you could go back tomorrow.
The worst thing about Bookbarn is that because everything is only £1, even the large coffee table books, you just end up going mad and coming home with 20 books, like us. (And I already had two of them!). But it is definitely worth it and I’m really pleased with my stash. Now I just have to decide which one I’m going to read first.
Full list of books:
Salon Kitty by Peter Norden
Philadelphia by Christopher Davis
Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
Folly by Susan Minot
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
The Songwriter by Beatrice Colin
The Long Party by Stella Margetson
Marilyn Monroe by Tom Hutchinson
The English Country House – A Grand Tour by Gervase Jackson-Stops