One of the highlights of our week in Northumberland was the chance to go to a wonderful secondhand bookshop, Barter Books. As the Dafter wasn’t up to going there with us, Michael and I took turns to spend time there. On my visit, people were arriving with boxes and bags of books to barter. There’s a desk where they give you credit to spend for your books – though you don’t need to barter, they also accept cash and the usual cards.
As you might notice, Barter Books is located in a former railway station. The owners have done a great job both of transforming it into a bookshop, and also of keeping the original features of the Victorian station. The first room you come into offers coffee and tea on an honour system, comfy sofas and stiff-upper-lip posters.
The next room you come to has a wonderful mural featuring writers, and a train that rattles around an elevated track. Barter Books is known for its selection of specialist books on railways.
The lines of poetry run throughout the entire place. I liked all the artistic touches:
Dogs are very well catered for with the Victorian “Filtered Water” fountain:
Barter Books has a great selection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as cases of valuable collectors books. It reminded me of a landmark second-hand bookshop in my home town, Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. I’m proud to have a personal connection to Powell’s. In the 1960s, Mr. Powell was our landlord and a family friend. I have very fond memories of him. He used to take our family for drinks at the Benson Hotel, and buy me and my sister Shirley Temples. It was a huge treat. I also loved looking out from the balcony of his house at the neon night lights of downtown. He was a very generous man and one of the only adults I knew who spoiled us children with surprises of cash presents. Mr. Powell had an idea for starting up a second-hand bookshop, and my father helped make the very first bookshelves for Powell’s Books.
Barter Books has lovely Victorian velvet seats where you’re free to sit and look through books. There’s a restaurant and also the original Waiting Room full of comfy seats and tables, and people sitting reading. I had a very tasty cheese toastie in the restaurant the day I went. For me this was a very big treat! (Though no Shirley Temple.) Along with a return trip to Holy Island, Michael and I hope to be able to visit Barter Books together one day as well. If you’re anywhere near Alnwick, I would really recommend going there, and leaving yourself at least an hour to get lost amongst the books.
Happy August, everyone!