The biggest bookshop in England

Resign yourself right now to the fact that, if you are ever 100 per cent pleased with a piece of work any later than one week after you finish it, you will probably not make it as a professional writer.

André Jute, “Start Writing Today!”

Baggins Bookshop: a deceptively small shop front!Heaven for me is being ensconced in a bookshop, later followed by my supping a latté while exploring my new-found gems. Second-hand bookshops are by far the best kind, because you never know what you might come across that you would almost certainly not happen upon in a new bookshop or on Amazon. After all, it was in a second-hand bookshop that I came across a copy of a writers’ magazine published in 1937 – and it didn’t cost me the earth either!

So it was with great anticipation that I travelled to Baggins Book Bazaar, which describes itself as “England’s largest rare and secondhand bookshop”.

Situated in the High Street in Rochester, Kent, it’s a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis. As you can see from the picture, the frontage is no wider than any other small shop you would find on any British high street. But once you are inside, it seems to go on forever.

Explore one room, and just as you think you’ve finished you notice it leads into another room. Rummage around in there, and all of a sudden you see a set of steps leading to yet another room. A veritable bibliophile’s paradise!

One of several rooms in the bookshop stacked floor to ceiling!

As is my wont, once I had had a general look around I made a beeline for the writing section. I discovered that in the shop there are many, many books on literary criticism, literary biography and useful reference books for the writer.

The section on the craft of writing is small but, to coin a phrase, size doesn’t matter. I came across some books published 20 years ago under the imprint of the Writers News Library of Writing. Now, although I enjoy looking at books on the craft of writing, I rarely buy them, for three reasons.

First, most of them seem to be a rehash of the same advice I’ve known about for years. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s not much point in spending money on a book which tells you what you already know. Unless it tells you in a new way – see the next point.

Second, some of them are written in a really boring style – not much of a recommendation for a book on creative writing, if you think about it.

And third, some of them are both boring and old hat.

For me to buy a book in this genre, it either has to contain advice or ideas I haven’t come across before, be really interesting to read, or both.

Well, I think I did rather well. I bought two books by André Jute: Start Writing Today! and Keep on Writing! (Considering the price of a new copy of the former is over $640 on Amazon, and I paid the equivalent of about $5 for it, I’m quite pleased!)

From a quick browse through these books I thought there were some nice ideas. I also liked the idea that Jute doesn’t pull his punches.

For example:

Anyone offering you a fat book of ‘facts’ on the creative process is either ignorant or insincere.

“Start Writing Today!”

Like Stephen King in his book On Writing, Jute offers plenty of advice which one could describe as, to use that awful expression, thinking outside the box.

So, apart from the enjoyment of browsing around the largest bookshop in England, I also came back with a couple of prize finds!

If you visit Baggins yourself, I’d suggest wandering along to the Deaf Cat café just a short walk along the High Street. It’s quite pleasant, the coffee is pretty decent, and there’s a nice ambience. Oh, and it won’t break the bank either!

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