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.
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.
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.
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.
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.