Saturday, 25 June 2016

My Favourite Book Shop by Emma Crowley

As part of the blog tour for Veronica Henry's beautiful book How to Find Love in a Book Shop reviewers were asked to write about their local bookshop or a bookshop they often frequent as part of the Books are my Bag campaign for Independent Bookshop Week. So I have chosen my local bookshop - in fact the only bookshop - The Book Centre in Waterford City where I live. 

Even if there had been other bookshops from which to make my selection I would have picked this family run shop situated in the heart of Waterford City in John's Roberts Square. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I hope it will be for may years to come. You would think when asked to choose your favourite bookshop there would be an abundance to contemplate before making your final decision but sadly that is no longer the case. As is highlighted in Veronica's story bookshops are becoming that rare commodity in this day and age - they are that special place that nurtures a bookworms dream and allow us to indulge our passion for books. Where else can you go in and pick up a book enticed by the cover and sit down for a few minutes to read the blurb or a sample chapter before deciding whether this book is one for you or not? 

In the current era of  technology and the regular onslaught of all things social media books are in danger of dying out but I for one believe there is nothing like the feel of a paperback in your hands and the thrill of actually turning the pages as you venture deeper into a damn good read. I agree as with all things in life books have to move with the times and the Kindle has been a good addition to the book world but e-books will never replace the real thing. Although they have tried and their book sales are huge and e readers are handy the feeling of walking into a bookshop and discovering what new authors and books it has to offer will never die out (the teacher in me will always instill a love of books in my pupils). It would be such a shame for future generations not to experience this and as Emilia in How to Find Love in a Bookshop learns people need and want their local bookshop because if there wasn't one there in the local community there would be a huge gaping hole that would be extremely difficult to replace.

I've loved reading ever since I can remember. I was religiously brought to the library every Saturday by my Dad to pick out books ranging from Topsy and Tim to The Secret Seven from Anne of Green Gables to the Chalet School and many many more (I still remember that feeling of graduating from the children's library to the adult section and borrowing my first ever Maeve Binchy), I read everything I could lay my hands on. When I first started having some money of my own beginning with pocket money the obvious thing to do was to spend it on books and The Book Centre was where I turned to. 

Originally located on Michael Street in the city the shop was opened by a local family called the Ryan’s in 1971. The Ryan’s still own the shop today with their daughter currently running the shop. I remember the old shop from when I was younger, as you walked through the door there were shelves either side which ran from floor to ceiling full of the latest releases and well loved classics. The children's section was towards the back and I spent many a time carefully choosing my next read. I can't remember in what year the shop moved to its current location but it obviously outgrew its first premises and they moved to the old cinema in John Roberts Square where it remains to this day. 

The Old Savoy Cinema

The location is absolutely perfect as the square really is the centre of the city and without The Book Centre and Penneys (Primark) across the street the city would be dead. These two shops draw residents and visitors alike and you enjoy imparting your well earned euros. The shop is huge inside with vast ceilings that stretch as high as you can see. There is a huge wall dominated by a fabulous painting which once was the old cinema screen. My Dad has fond memories of watching films there but it's nice to think many more fond memories are being created in this unique shop which is loved by many.

Of course all shops these days realise the need to diversify and that's what sets The Book Centre apart from the rest. They have kept with the times and current trends whilst still retaining their loyalty to books and their customers. No trip to town is complete without a visit to The Book Centre even if it just to nip inside the door for a quick look at the new releases. That's quite a clever idea having the best-sellers placed firmly by the door as you walk in with all the magazines on the opposite side. They have a hugely impressive range of magazines and when I was younger I religiously bought Smash Hits, TV Hits, Bliss, Sugar and many more from the shop. The further you venture into this shop the more you realise just what a treasure trove it really is. There is an area in the middle  filled with tables and chairs surrounded by books all grouped according to genre, I admit I avoid the sci-fi and crime sections but love to look at women's and historical fiction. What's more there is never any pressure in the least to buy anything. You can simply grab a book from a shelf or table and sit down and read (I know a woman who picks up a book orders a coffee and sits down to read every time she goes in without ever purchasing the book) and even better you can order a coffee and a Leonidas chocolate or two to indulge while you read from the small counter nearby. Isn't that just pure and utter heaven? 

At the back of the shop is a huge children’s area which caters for all from babies up to young adult and there is a lovely comfy area where parents can often be found reading to their children. If you need cards or wrapping paper the shop has that covered too. My mum won't buy her cards anywhere else believing they are such good quality and always have a lovely verse inside as she says herself. As for the stationary addict increasingly emerges from within me thanks to Happy Mail and Twitter friends well that's sorted to with an exciting array of notebooks, listpads, pens etc (although I doubt it will ever compare to Sharon's beloved Paperchase which sadly we don't have over here but I wish they did). If you fancy a bite to eat on an upper mezzanine there is a small café called The Pennefeather Café which serves tasty food which you can enjoy whilst looking down on the shop and its customers as they browse through the vast selection of books on offer. Further up on another floor there is our local school bookshop Scholars (which was once a separate shop but years ago was cleverly incorporated into The Book Centre) the queues in August for this shop our endless with back to school time yet it is a vital part of the shop.

The Book Centre really is a special place and I'm not just saying that because I am from Waterford, my Uncle lives in Galway and when he visits he makes it his business to pay a trip to the shop. Any tourists to the city have it as one of their places to visit while they stay and the shop has received rave reviews in national newspapers, reviews which are very well deserved I might add. When you step inside the large space all the noise from outside recedes and you forget that in fact you are in the centre of the city and there is hustle and bustle outside. There is such a wide range of books available that cater for all tastes and if a book is not on the shelves or available it's never too much trouble for the friendly staff at customer service (in fact the entire staff are so friendly and knowledgeable) to order the book in for you and they'll even give you a ring when the book is in. Quite often there are author events from top Irish authors but also our local home-grown Waterford talent as author Karen Power has held both her book launches in the shop. It's difficult to stay competitive in these challenging times of ebooks whilst maintaining the same standard and vibe you have created for so many years but The Book Centre achieves this and much more. They have moved with the times and in recent years have launched an online store for those not lucky enough to live in the beautiful city that has this stunning, memorable bookshop and to my mind the site is a clever idea but for me nothing beats going in and seeing what's on offer with Book of the Week or Month or what the Manager's Choice is? 

Anyone who knows me when it comes to Christmas or birthday's knows a Book Centre voucher is what I'll always want (Penneys too I would never refuse!) I don't like family members buying books for me as I read so much they would probably end up buying something I have already read or would never read in a million years. There's something magical about going into your local bookshop and selecting the book you have had your eye on for ages and using your book token to purchase it. I think I have extolled the positives about this exciting, splendid and notable book shop for long enough. Suffice to say if it were ever to go the city would suffer a huge loss. One or two shelves of books in Tesco does not cut it for me or any book lover, The Book Centre is a Waterford institution and long may it continue. So if you ever do find yourself in the sunny south-east of Ireland in the historic city of Waterford please do pay a visit to The Book Centre I promise you won't regret it.

1 comment:

  1. The Book Centre is by far my favourite place in Waterford. I've lost countless hours in there.