The Whitby Bookshop

August 20, 2013 § 12 Comments

Just back from a week at the Yorkshire coast – a place that has always been, for me, a wellspring.  I walked the Cleveland Way at 9, caught my first fish from Whitby’s East Pier at 10; my memory is filled with its skies, hills, cliffs and fossiled beaches.

In the last few years, it has become increasingly significant, too, as a source of poetry.  Every visit sets the antennae twitching: the local accent (though there are fewer of these now, as cottages and chapels are bought up and converted by the monied) is a North-East one, and the coastline is rich with Viking or Scottish words like ‘wyke’ (landing place), ‘howe’ (hole) and ‘scar’ (submerged rock).

And there is The Whitby Bookshop.  The ground floor, with its new fiction and children’s section, is always busy, thankfully.  They do a lot to promote local writers, too, with a large, prominent section only partly capitalising on the town’s gothic credentials.  But up the rickety stairs to the small front room, there is poetry.  Not a wide selection, but fantastic discounts, encouraging me to buy collections from poets I’m not familiar with.  This time it was Robin Robertson’s The Wrecking Light at £3.95.  They also had Swithering.  I nearly bought Sean O’Brien’s Collected Poems as well – half price – and probably should have done.  A couple of years ago I got a copy of George Mackay Brown’s Collected Poems for £8.  Okay, it came out in 2005, but still, it’s a fantastic book, RRP £20.

If ever you’re in the area, as they say, have a look.

And while we’re at it, which other independent bookshops can you recommend for poetry?  I wonder if we can support them in other ways?


§ 12 Responses to The Whitby Bookshop

  • I too am a great fan of The Whitby Bookshop and will be visiting at the beginning of September. Another favourite haunt is Scarthin Books in Derbyshire, which has new and secondhand books, work by local writers and book events. Plus, you can have a home-made lunch in the cafe whilst browsing through volumes on cookery and gardening.

  • Rob says:

    I don’t know Scarthin Books – whereabouts is it?

    It would be good if we could begin to map these shops to raise their profile a bit.

  • Brian Lewis says:

    The Guardian has a standalone map / directory of UK independent bookshops (not sure what the criteria are, but it seems accurate and up-to-date – readers submit reviews, new additions etc)

  • Brian Lewis says:

    …though closer inspection does throw up anomalies – Hebden Bridge is (seemingly) in both the North-West and the North-East, and there are no independents in Leeds… Still, it’s a starting point. In London, the larger Foyles (if Foyles still qualifies for ‘independent’ status – it doesn’t appear on the Guardian list) is usually worth a visit, as is the London Review Bookshop (some thoughtful and unexpected choices, inc plenty of US imports)

  • No Alibis, Botanic Avenue in Belfast and two Bookshops in Galway city: Kenny’s and Charley’s. i am delighted to have come across your site and to hear about Whitby. Thank you.

  • Rob says:

    Thanks Roberta. I would expect nothing less from Galway!

  • Welcome Rob! May I correct my spelling please? It’s Charley Byrne’s Independent Bookshop Galway (and they just won the Irish Times Bookshop of the Year by the way!). Thanks again 🙂

  • Topping on the High Street in Ely, a few minutes walk from work, is a great Independent bookshop which organises lots of author evenings – Tim Dee last night, and Bill Bryson in a month or two for example.

    GMB is a great author and poet with a tremendously geographical ‘sense of place’ in all his work of course 🙂 A former colleague was a neighbour of his, and we talked about his work often.

    Missed going to the E coast this summer… Maybe next year…

  • Rob says:

    Thanks Alan.

    Isn’t there one somewhere in North Norfolk as well? Burnham Market?

  • Ali H says:

    David Granville’s Books on the Park on Ecclesall Road is a second hand bookshop, with lots and lots of interesting subjects covered. He also sells records and CDs. Well worth a visit, but give yourself longer than you think you need. There’s a lot to look through.

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