Visit The Second Shelf, A Hidden Bookstore in London A.N. Devers is a fierce woman.…
Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights
A bookstore with a name this glorious couldn’t live anywhere but Bath. One of the oldest and most architecturally beautiful little cities in all of the UK, Bath is a favourite place to visit amongst literary types. The city has a Jane Austen museum (with a gift shop), the historic Roman baths which gave the town its name, and of course one of the most fabulous bookstores in the country: Mr. B’s. It’s also one of our top five literary cities (coming soon).
The store is located in the town centre, just off from the main street, around the corner from the aforementioned Jane Austen Centre, and a few doors down from an excellent pub with an excellent name: The Raven.
Once inside, you’ll immediately see the appeal. The store is filled with natural light, and is also the right kind of cramped, where every turn of the body yields a new bookshelf or display to admire. There are three floors: the ground floor, which has the newest stock and most of the fiction, as well as delightful window displays and the friendliest staff (ask for recommendations; they’ll happily oblige). The basement is where all the history and philosophy can be found, as well as a toilet that was hand-decorated by the legendary Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell.
Upstairs hides a fantastic little secret: the reading room. This is a tiny space with sunlight flooding in, a few chairs to perch upon, and a quiet calm in which to read as you flick through a few chosen temptations. This room on its own solidifies Mr. B’s as one of the greatest independent bookstores in Britain (the Guardian newspaper also agrees with us, naming Mr. B’s one of the ten best bookstores in the world back in 2015).
The store also offers something very special. For £80 you can buy yourself or a loved one a ‘Book Spa’. This includes a visit to the store where you’ll be treated to some bibliotherapy: a member of the store will sit down with you and chat about your favourite books, listen to your tastes, and return with a stack of books tailored to your tastes. You’ll leave with £55 worth of new books, a mug, a tote bag, and a gift card. We cannot think of a better gift for a bookish friend.
Mr. B’s is a special store because it understands books and book-lovers. It knows what aesthetics we like; that we need comfort and the opportunity to discuss literature and history. It provides everything that a bookworm could want. Whenever we return to the UK for a visit, we make a bee-line for Bath, eat at a local pub, wander the friendly streets, and pay a visit to Mr. B’s. It honestly is a delight and we could not love this store more.
Interested in more bookstores around the world? Here are other favourites so far.