7 Quirky Independent Bookshops in the UK

When was the last time you visited independent bookshops? Perhaps it has been a while, maybe even never. 

But really – you’re missing out. The UK hosts some of the most vibrant, eclectic bookshops around.

I’ve narrowed these down to just seven independent bookshops.

Is your favourite on this list? Got a must-visit to recommend? Give them a shout out in the comments below.

(Belper, Derbyshire)

Bearded Badger Books is a teeny, tiny bookish spot in the Derbyshire town of Belper. It’s great.

Based in the incredibly quirky 1924 Building, it’s a charming little retail space with a whole host of new and used books.

Following immediate success as independent publisher Bearded Badger Publishing in 2020 (with books like Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel), Paul Handley – the bearded badger himself – struck out into the retail space in April 2021. 

As a fairly new bookshop in a brilliant retail space, I’d strongly encourage you to visit if you’re in the area.

(Nottingham)

Nottingham is home to a rich history of rebel writers, including Lord Byron, Alan Sillitoe, Stanley Middleton, and D.H. Lawrence.

It’s also home to Five Leaves Bookshop, a self-styled radical and independent bookshop. Five Leaves stocks a range of political and literary writing, in addition to the more mainstream fiction you’ll find in a certain well-known chain.

Blink and you’ll miss it – Five Leaves Bookshop can be found down a side-street on Nottingham’s Long Row – opposite the council house. It’s a secretive location, but one that Five Leaves loyalists are more than familiar with by now.

We are radical in that the shop supports those who want to change the world for the better. This is reflected in the books we stock and the events we promote.

Independent publishing, independent thinking, independent writing. That’s good enough for us. We pay the Living Wage.”

Five Leaves Bookshop

(Watchet, Somerset)

Independent Bookshop Harbour Community Bookshop
Credit: watchetcommunitybookshop.co.uk/

Next on this list of fine independent bookshops is one I came across entirely by accident whilst visiting my family.

Harbour Community Bookshop can be found in a small harbour village in Somerset called Watchet. Interestingly, for the literary buffs amongst you, Watchet plays host to the statue of the Ancient Mariner – the mariner of Coleridge’s epic poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Coleridge’s cottage is also just a short drive away in Nether Stowey. There you can sample the finest tea & cakes, whilst sitting under the tree in which Coleridge allegedly wrote This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison. It’s a hoot.

Watchet’s bookshop itself is a humble place, packed the rafters with a range of used books donated by locals. You’ll find fiction, non-fiction, children’s books – pretty much anything.

And let’s be honest, is there anything more exciting than a bookshop with rotating stock? The not knowing what hidden gems you might find on any given visit.

It’s also worth mentioning that, since opening in 2009, Harbour Community Bookshop has raised almost £200,000 for good causes. Not bad for a bookshop way off the beaten track. Much of its profits go into charitable work, community initiatives, and – of course – maintenance of the shop. 

Its appeal is primarily in the location, but if you happen to be in the area, do pop by Watchet, grab a cuppa & a used book, and take in the sights of the harbour.

Independent Bookshop Imagined Things
Credit: imaginedthings.co.uk

(Harrogate, Yorkshire)

Imagined Things is my favourite bookshop that I’ve never visited.

But, rest-assured, it’s the number one bookshop on my to-visit list.

Located in the beautiful Harrogate, famous for Yorkshire Tea, Taylor’s of Harrogates and, of course, Betty’s Tearooms, Imagined Things is the ultimate cozy bookshop for readers.

Imagined Things boasts a wide range of books, from the latest commercial and literary fiction, to YA novels and children’s books.

Plus merch. Loads of bookish merch.

Imagined Things run author events on a regular basis, promoting homegrown talent from the local area.

Oh – they also have a bookshop fish tank (because why not?!), a bookshop dragon called Fable, AND their own bookshop poem:

At Imagined Things we see
The world a little bit differently…
We’re proudly independent, one of a kind,
Delighted to be different with many wonders to find.
Books that never run out of charge,
Stories that stay with you forever little and large.
Books to order the very next day (everything being ok),
Plus cards, gifts and stationery to do things your way.
Always improving, honest and fair,
A local bookshop that will always care.
A world without bookshops would be so sad indeed,
So let us cater for your every reading, writing, stationery need!

Imagined Things' Bookshop Poem

I can’t wait to visit this place. How many bookshops have this sort of character and independent spirit?! I love it.

(Nottingham)

Independent Bookshop Page 45
Credit: page45.com

Love your comics, manga, and graphic novels? 

Look no further than Page 45 in Nottingham – a veritable trove of comic book goodness.

Aside from Leeds’ OK Comics (which is also an excellent place worth visiting) Page 45 is a really unique spot.

Here you’ll find one of the richest collections of comics and graphic novels in the UK. Haven’t got what you’re looking for? No problem, the folks at Page 45 are more than happy to help you try to get hold of a copy on order.

They’re friendly, welcoming to new readers, and a fine example for all comic book stores everywhere.

Independent Bookshop Scarthin Books
Credit: scarthinbooks.com

(Cromford, Derbyshire)

Scarthin has a great reputation up and down the country. I know people who will travel just to visit the bookshop.

And in the heart of Derbyshire, it’s no surprise why. 

Independent Bookshops Scarthin Books outside

Cromford's bookshop, not far from Matlock Bath, is surrounded by picturesque scenery and some great pubs.

The bookshop itself is pretty spectacular too! Boasting an excellent range of books, Scarthin has something for everyone.

You can even have afternoon tea inside, surrounded by books.

In fact, it might just be the most beautiful bookshop on this list.

Independent Bookshop Falmouth Bookseller
Credit: falmouthbookseller.co.uk

(Falmouth, Cornwall)

Last, but certainly not least, is Falmouth Bookseller.

Based on the cobbled streets of a Cornish town, is a wonderful bookshop.

It’s also where I bought my first copy of The Lord of the Rings – which I promptly devoured from cover-to-cover over the course of a Cornwall holiday.

It’s laid out in a really welcoming way, with genres clear and easy to navigate.

Falmouth Bookseller is one of those classic archetypical bookshops. Cozy and welcoming, I could scour the shelves for hours.

Nearby, Falmouth has some great cafés, pubs, and other independent restaurants. It’s also a short ferry ride away from St. Mawes – a quiet Cornish seaside village.

For an even greater (but not exhaustive) list, check out the incredible A-Z Directory on indiebookshops.com, showcasing almost 900 UK independent bookshops!

Which independent bookshops do you love?
Let me know in the comments below!

Rogue: Untouched Book Review

Rogue Untouched Book Review

*ARC provided by Marvel and Aconyte Books in exchange for a fair and honest review*

Published by Aconyte Books, Rogue: Untouched is part of the ongoing ‘Marvel Heroines’ novel series. This particular entry focuses on Rogue – a mutant and member of the X-Men.

If you’re unfamiliar with the X-Men, it’s a Marvel superhero franchise about members of society known as mutants living in plain sight with regular civilians. Mutants are seemingly ordinary people who possess extraordinary abilities.

Rogue: Untouched brings together X-Men fan-favourites Rogue and Gambit. If you’ve ever followed the comics, movies, or the excellent X-Men Evolution TV show of the late ’90s, this is written for you.

‘But does Rogue: Untouched still appeal to non-comic book readers?’ I hear you ask.

The short answer is yes.

Who is Rogue?

Anna Marie – more commonly known as Marie (or Rogue) – is a down-to-earth, sharp-tongued waitress with a dry sense of humour.

Kwitney captures Marie’s iconic ‘Southern belle’ persona wonderfully, from her Mississippi drawl to her appending of ‘sugar’ to certain phrases. It’s authentic writing, adding depth and believability to her character, avoiding the very real risk of slipping into cliché.

As an aside, I’ve actually seen other bloggers compare Marie to Sookie Stackhouse of the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels. An apt comparison – both Sookie and Anna Marie work as waitresses in a bar, possess a similarly dry sense of humour, and are verifiable badass female leads.

Add to the fact that, by coincidence, Anna Paquin plays both Rogue and Sookie on screen in X-Men and True Blood respectively, and it’s clear to see the influence.

Rogue Untouched Book Review Anna Paquin as Rogue
Anna Paquin as Rogue
Anna Paquin as Sookie

Rogue’s power allows her to absorb other mutants’ powers by touch, allowing her to mimic these powers and – in doing so – acquire memories, emotions, and visions. Again, coincidentally, almost vampiric.

Nonetheless, Kwitney is a great writer. She demonstrates a strong knowledge of the source materials and writes Remy and Rogue in an authentic and compelling manner. Rogue: Untouched delivers some outstanding character moments as a result.

The Narrative of Rogue: Untouched

The narrative of Rogue: Untouched is, for the most part, pretty good.

The first half is certainly the stronger section. Remy and Marie’s first meeting is excellently drawn. And it’s genuinely compelling to see her begin to learn of her powers and how to use them.

However, pacing is an issue at times. 

The novel starts well, with some decent world-building and compelling exchanges between Rogue and Gambit.

And then Part Two happens. Remy gets a little lost amidst a slew of new characters and the novel grinds to a halt. I take the point that it’s Rogue’s story – not Remy’s – but he does play a large role in the narrative.

From here, it then varies between slow, meandering chapters, punctuated by fight scenes that are scatty and difficult to follow.

Still, in spite of the pacing, the narrative remains fairly strong throughout. It’s a good read and it captures the essence of the X-Men.

Positive Representation

X-Men is not short of powerful female characters, an irony hopefully not lost on anyone. So, it’s no surprise that female characters are very well-represented in Rogue: Untouched.

Iconic women such as Storm, Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, and Psylocke aren’t part of this story, but bar Remy LaBeau (Gambit), virtually all of the key characters in this novel are women.

Tessa is a particularly charming and well-written character. She’s also disabled, but her disability does not define her entire character.

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Tessa’s written in a sensitive, non-patronising way, and in this respect, it’s good to see positive disability representation. Especially in superhero media. Tessa simply belongs, and that’s great.

And belonging, after all, is a core part of the X-Men identity. It’s a series about people learning to become comfortable in their own skin – sometimes figuratively, often literally – and embracing who they are.

Is Rogue: Untouched worth reading?

Rogue: Untouched is absolutely worth reading.

X-Men fans will love it because it’s true to the lore, the characters are written excellently, and it’s more X-Men content.

Furthermore, there are a host of nods to X-Men comics, including the references to the characters’ classic costumes (Remy’s trench coat and Rogue’s green & yellow suit – just to name a couple!)

It’s worth mentioning that the book is non-canon but to be fair, the so-called X-Men canon is all over the place anyway. Still, Rogue: Untouched is a great novel and worthy of any entry in the X-Men universe.

Without prior knowledge of X-Men, it’s still a very good novel. The characters are well drawn (well, Remy and Anna Marie are), and makes for a decent origin story. If you enjoy character-driven YA novels, Rogue: Untouched should appeal – regardless of your experience with X-Men.

4/5

About Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media for over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media.

For more information visit marvel.com. © 2020 MARVEL

Boys Don’t Cry Book Review

Boys Don't Cry Book Cover
Boys Don't Cry Book Review

This is Dublin.

Except in Boys Don’t Cry, there’s no Grafton Street or Temple Bar. This is real, lived-in Dublin.

We’re transported to a block of flats named ‘The Jax,’ – after the famed Mother Teresa Bojaxhiu – where Joe and Finn O’Reilly live, along with their parents.

Under a bleak backdrop, Boys Don’t Cry navigates the often complex landscapes of adolescence and grief. It’s masterfully done – a real standout novel.

Boys Don't Cry: A Tale of Two Brothers

Told through a past/present twin-narrative by brothers Finn & Joe, Boys Don’t Cry alternates between the two POVs, revealing more about the boys’ lives as the novel progresses.

Joe, aged 17, is a promising art student. His parents send him to private school with the intent of giving him the opportunity to make a better life. Resented by his old schoolmates who attend a ‘regular’ school, and never quite accepted by his new peers, Joe never truly belongs.

His father is in jail, his mother suffers (seemingly from depression), and Finn is battling an aggressive cancer.

A bitter man, Joe is hardened by these experiences. He’s pressured to ”be the man’ of the house, a brother, a son, a friend. Never to show weakness.

“I’ve never seen Da cry. He tells us that crying is a sign of weakness. That boys don’t cry. That boys should never cry. So we don’t. Ever. Unless we’re in private, when nobody sees.”

Finn O'Reilly, Boys Don't Cry

Finn, by contrast, is unblemished by the agonising social dynamics of adolescence. An optimist who wouldn’t seem out of place in Leonard and Hungry Paul, Finn sees the best in the flawed people around him.

As the moral compass of the two brothers, Finn’s lightness of heart sets him apart from the gathering gloom around him.

And yet, his narrative is punctuated by a deep melancholy.

Authenticity & Immersion

From the lovely Dubliner dialect to its stellar characters (Sabine being a personal highlight), authenticity permeates the book.

Scarlett’s novel is packed with real people full of their own fervent hopes and fears. 

It’s also a highly immersive setting, much of this down to the excellent quality of the prose. Scarlett has a wonderful talent for taking the reader to her boys’ Dublin. 

The Jax… Dessie’s corner in the pub… the prison visitors’ lounge where Joe speaks with his dad… they’re all places that feel acutely familiar.

In fact, Boys Don’t Cry is one of those rare books in which you become so immersed in the lives of its characters, you forget – for fleeting moments – that you’re reading fiction.

It’s phenomenal stuff.

Final Rating

4/5

Boys Don’t Cry comes strongly recommended. It’s a phenomenally powerful debut novel that deserves all the praise it’s currently receiving.

I do wish it was slightly longer, however. 

The novel is well paced for the most part, but a major incident that occurs in the final few chapters of the novel raises a host of questions about the fate of certain characters.

Questions I was desperate for answers to.

On the whole though, Boys Don’t Cry is an emotionally-driven, sometimes dark, but overall endearing examination of adolescence, grief, and the pressures faced by young men in a hyper-masculine environment.

With all this in mind, I would strongly recommend that you pick up a copy!