Remember when the best bit about the days between Christmas and New Year was spending your book tokens? We do. Let John Maguire take you for a stroll to a literary garden in our latest wander around our favourite bookshops…
Books wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life. In Cardiff, the city that brought us Shirley Bassey and the Doctor Who re-boot, you will find, or indeed stumble upon, a fabulous book store that will revitalise the soul.
Described simply as ‘the real deal’ by its proprietor, BEAR ISLAND BOOK EXCHANGE in Cardiff Market is sandwiched between a sweet shop and a deli. A commixture of smells combust in the air, fresh fish from Ashtons, the fishmongers (tenants in the market since 1866), strong coffee, Mediterranean spice and the leafed pages of worn and well-read paperbacks. Books that have been lived in, crammed with notes and the odd coffee-stained pages that almost tell a tale in their own right.
True Detective, Vintage Comics, Commando Action magazines, a heavy laden, almost cascading, mountain of Mills and Boon, rare and Antiquarian books crowd the shelves. The books are haphazardly organised by genre, this forces you to look at new authors, instead of opting upon tried and tested writers. I always feel like a literary pig, sniffing out new creative truffles in amongst the written foliage.
This little overgrowth of literature is like a well-loved piece of garden, blooming throughout the year, ever-changing. A tiny literary paradise where I always find at least one book to buy, one I may have read before and want to revisit or pass to a friend, like Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, or books that I have for one reason or another not got around to reading, like my latest acquisition Bald Twit Lion by Spike Milligan.
Either way, it is a magical place to visit. A relief from the chain book stores that pop up in every city high street, like literary McDonald’s. BEAR ISLAND BOOK EXCHANGE is thankfully a blot of individualism on a piece of town planning parchment paper that has become the same everywhere, a blueprint of monotony.
Here is to the real deal! Happy hunting!