Book shops

Three Floors, Ten Rooms, Thousands of Books

Old children's booksOld children's books, under the stairs.

Everywhere I go, I will look for used book shops to explore. On the Isle Of Wight, at 135 High Street, Ryde, I found a shop on three stories that’s just full to the brim with books. It’s the Ryde Book Shop.

Every room on every floor is full of bookshelves. There are shelves under the stairs, up the stairs, in built in cupboards, everywhere. Every bit of space and corner has books in it.

This is my kind of book shop and I was in my element; I spent two hours just browsing. Owner Mark Sames said they have about 100,000 books altogether, though some are stored elsewhere. About one in five books are also listed online, on Amazon and Abe Books.

There’s a lot of local history books in the shop, but Mark says that the Ryde Book Shop doesn’t specialise in any subjects. Mark knows where everything is in detail, and when I couldn’t find a category he took me to the right shelves with ease. There are new books, maps, postcards, and other things on the ground floor, but mostly, it’s a big house full of used books.

Mark Sames  The Ryde Book ShopMark Sames, the owner.

I came away with three books, and I had already finished one by the time I left the island. This is pretty good going; I’ve been going to used book shops for years and it’s got to the point where I’ve got most of the books I want already. Often I will come away from a shop with nothing, but the search continues.

The shop is being refurbished and rearranged, Mark told me. He showed me new made to measure shelves and there are more to be built. New carpets and a new awning for the shop front are planned.

Books on the stairsBooks, books everywhere...

With the huge amount of stock this shop carries, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you didn’t know existed. You’d almost certainly never find it online as you wouldn’t know what to search for. If you go to the Isle of Wight, do visit this shop.

Opening times

Monday to Saturday: 9 am to 5 pm.
Sunday: 10 am to 4 pm.
Open on Bank Holidays.
Closed Christmas day only.

How it all began

Mark’s Mum and Dad used to buy and sell books as a hobby, he told me, finding books at jumble sales and book fairs. In 1988 they sold their houses and bought the shop at Ryde, which opened on November 1st that year.

The shop sold cards and stationary at first, but these items have been phased out. Now most of the stock comes from house clearances and they have no shortage of books. His Dad, close to 90, still comes to the shop once or twice a week.

Rupert annualsAnnuals fill this built in cupboard.

Mark’s choice

Mark prefers reading non fiction books and is presently reading Wilding, by Isabella Tree.

This is the story of a rewilding project on a farm at Knepp in West Sussex, where Isabella and her husband Charlie Burrell introduced free roaming cattle, ponies, pigs, and deer to the farm; substitutes for the large animals that once roamed this country.

The result was an extraordinary increase in the numbers and diversity of the wildlife on the farm. I haven't read it, but it does sound interesting.

What I Did on my Holidays

Books to take on holidayThursday afternoon on the campsite.

I spent this early May Bank Holiday weekend on a campsite, on the South coast of the Isle of Wight. I took a couple of books with me. One was A Clockwork Orange, and this is from the back cover:

“Fifteen-year-old Alex and his three friends start an evening’s mayhem by hitting an old man, tearing up his books and stripping him of money and clothes.

“Or rather Alex and his three droogs tolchock an old Veck, razrez his books, pull off his outer platties and take a malenky bit of cutter”

“For Alex’s confessions are written in ‘nadsat’ - the teenage argot of a not too distant future

"Horror Farce? Social prophecy? Penetrating study of human choice between good and evil? A Clockwork Orange is all three”

A Clockwork Orange was first published in 1962, but this is a 1973 copy. I’ve read it before and read it again over the weekend; I recommend it.

My other book was John Buchan’s The Power-house. It’s an adventure set in London from 105 years ago; rather a different sort of tale from the unpleasant activities of Alex and his contemporaries, and that's why I chose these books as a pair.

The Powerhouse is an anarchist’s organisation, and yes, that is a contradiction in terms, but it's a criticism of anarchists, not of this book.

Published first in serial form in Blackwood’s Magazine in December 1913, it was written before Buchan’s much more well known The Thirty-Nine Steps, but was first published as a book nearly a year later in 1916.

Books bought on holidaySunday morning on the campsite.

In the end I didn’t read it, choosing Castle For Rent by John DeChancie instead. This was a much better counterpoint to Burgess’s book. Castle Perilous is a gigantic castle where magic works, and there are portals to thousands of other realities and worlds. It’s a scifi/swords and sorcery novel.This is the first edition, 1989.

It’s okay, but light fantasy isn’t my thing and I think his science fiction Skyway trilogy is rather better.

I bought Castle for Rent along with a couple of World War Two escape memoirs from the Ryde Bookshop while I was on the Isle of Wight (look out for a post on this shop coming soon).

Over the Edge RallyCompletely off topic, but here's what I was up to in the evenings, The last Over the Edge Rally. Thanks to Stan & Co., who know who they are.

Piece of Cake is Australian Geoff Taylor’s own story of being a pilot with Bomber Command. He is shot down over Germany, wanders alone across the country, is captured, attempts to escape, and eventually gets released at the end of the war. First published 1955, this is a 1957 edition.

Dare to be Free is by a New Zealander, W.B. “Sandy” Thomas. During the airborne invasion of Crete, he is seriously injured and captured. He makes several unsuccessful escape attempts until he gets away and hides amongst the monks of Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece. First published in 1951, this edition is from 1955.

There’s a picture of a hand waving the Greek flag, pasted opposite the title page. I believe this was put in by a previous owner.

I’m back home now, tired but refreshed.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Powerhouse by John Buchan, Castle for Rent by John DeChancie, Piece of Cake by Geoff Taylor, Dare to be Free by W.B. Thomas.