Bucks book shops worth a visit

Liz Nicholls

Liz Earle

Our independent bookshops welcome readers young and old as well as connecting authors to loyal audiences. Liz Nicholls chats to some of the people behind the local treasures which deserve your custom, thanks to face-to-face, tangible magic in an increasingly online world

Don’t underestimate the pulling power of your local bookshop! Recently Joan Borreli travelled from the USA to Gerrards Cross Bookshop to collect a signed, limited-edition copy of Sir Paul McCartney’s book, 1964: The Eyes of the Storm.

“There are only 175 signed copies of this book worldwide, and we were thrilled to be selected by Penguin Random House to receive one copy to sell,” explains Sheryl Shurville. “As you can imagine, we were inundated with phone calls and emails from interested customers, but Joan got in first! We had a lovely celebration for her and Joan combined her visit with a trip to Liverpool as she’s a huge Beatles fan. It’s moments like these that really bring home how much joy people get from books. It’s a fantastic memento that Joan and her family can treasure, and we were delighted to play our part in that.”

The GX shop has been cherished by locals for more than 30 years while its glam older sister, Chorleywood Bookshop, has clocked up 50 years. Both are now part of the same company, Chiltern Bookshops Limited, co-owned by Sheryl Shurville and Martin McKean, but the Chorleywood shop was originally set up by four women in the early 1970s. Both are cultural hubs for their respective communities, as Sheryl adds: “Individuals and families love visiting for pleasure and inspiration. They’re the lifeblood of the local cultural communities, inspiring the readers of today and tomorrow, connecting authors and their potential audiences. Our friendly, knowledgeable booksellers offer customers personalised advice on what to read next. These human conversations are so important. Customers really value these face-to-face interactions – it’s something they simply cannot get from shopping online!”

The shops also host about 90 author events a year, with recent highlights starring the likes of Rick Stein, Lorraine Kelly, Alastair Campbell, Victoria Hislop &Clive Myrie. “Our schools programme is extensive and expanding too, from large-scale author events, book fairs, supporting children’s literacy, and library restocks. It’s a vital part of what we do to inspire an interest in reading from a young age.”

Use your independent shops or lose them! We aren’t museums.”.”

Spring and early summer is always a busy time for book releases. On Monday, 15th April, 7.30pm at Chorleywood Memorial Hall, the Chiltern Bookshops team will welcome the writer and comedian Helen Lederer to discuss her powerful, frank, moving new memoir, Not That I’m Bitter. Tickets are £12; call 01923 283566 or email [email protected]

Women’s heath expert Liz Earle will star at King’s Church in Amersham, HP6 6LX, for an evening celebrating the publication of her new book A Better Second Half (tickets from £15).

Gardeners’ World presenter Frances Tophill will be at Chorleywood Memorial Hall, on Monday, 29th April to talk about her new book, A Year in a Small Garden which features photography shot throughout the year, as well as Frances’ own journal and garden notebooks documenting how she built her small oasis.

Highlights beyond this include former PM Theresa May, bestselling novelist David Nicholls, writer & journalist Clover Stroud and historian and writer Max Hastings. For this & more please visit chilternbookshops.co.uk

Young readers were also front of mind when Thame Book House opened in 1972, exclusively as a children’s bookshop… “Hence the gift of our wonderful Fat Puffin who stands outside (in opening hours) from publisher Puffin Books,” says Luise Pattinson of the shop. “We started in Cuttlebrook House – auspiciously WB Yeats had lived in that house a short while and his son was born there. As our business grew, we needed to expand; we were essentially in the main downstairs room of the owner’s home so we moved to our current position, 93 High Street, which allowed us to add books for grown-ups to our shelves!”

A few years later the same team opened a shop in Summertown, beloved by Morse author Colin Dexter…  “We had to close that branch exactly 40 years after opening,” adds Luise with a call to action for us all: “Use your independent shops or lose them! We aren’t museums.”

Among the many authors whose burgeoning career was nurtured by their local bookshop is bestselling writer and barrister Tony Kent. “I first came to know the team at Chiltern Bookshops when I moved to Bucks in 2018, which coincided with the release of my first book,” he tells us. “Despite being very early in my career at that time, Sheryl, Martin and their staff were incredibly supportive. They invited me to appear at a host of events throughout the first few years and made a big difference to my profile locally. As things have progressed and my books have become more well-known, that same support has been maintained, including a launch event for my fifth thriller The Shadow Network and our partnership with them at the UK’s newest major crime writing festival, Chiltern Kills.” For more on this October highlight, visit chilternkills.com

Anya Lautenbach’s new book, The Money Saving Gardener, is thriving as heartily as the Bucks garden she planted from seeds and cuttings. Her book was recently named a Sunday Times bestseller and featured in The Telegraph. But it’s her local Marlow Bookshop which helped tend this blossoming success… “I love supporting local businesses and was thrilled the shop wanted to stock my book and invite me to talk,” she beams. “It’s a wonderful place, with 25,000 books in stock. Since they know I’m local, they have been so kind to me and I have also supported them on social media. I love the fact that my passion, and now my book, have allowed me to connect with so many people.”

With its hotchpotch of characterful buildings tucked under wonky rooftops, Great Missenden High Street will forever be the BFG’s stomping ground in my mind thanks to Roald Dahl, the famous son of the village. It’s also home to St Andrew’s Bookshop which has served readers of Christian books for more than 65 years.

Real Magic Books opened in the heart of Wendover High Street in 2022. Co-owner Carl Gosling says: “Independent bookshops celebrate real books, showing people of all ages how beautiful, exciting and important they are. Booksellers work tirelessly to bring authors to our towns and villages, to share ideas and culture that hopefully bring us joy through art and the written word, and ultimately inspire us. Amazon does none of this; Amazon just believes in profit. Our motto is ‘good books for bad times’. Our highlight guests since we opened have included Irvine Welsh, Jeremy Deller, Salena Godden, Cold War Steve, and many more. There has been an event almost every week with lots of author events coming.”

l Please visit booksaremybag.com