Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Indie Advent: Charlie on The Book House, Thame

Really really thrilled today - firstly because we got to the end of Indie Advent without missing any posts - a HUGE thank you to everyone who's taken part; go here for a list of posts to catch up with any you've missed.

But also, we have an absolutely fantastic post to finish on, as my friend Charlie - one of the most awesome people I've met in a brilliant year - has written a superb post about The Book House, completely with tons of lovely pictures.

The Book House is a little independent bookshop, tucked away in a listed building on the High Street of Thame in Oxfordshire. It is owned by Brian Pattinson, who has been selling books for over forty years, and is managed by his sister in law, Luise Pattinson. The whole shop has a real family feel to it, from the carefully selected stock to the warm welcome the lovely staff give to shoppers. It's even appeared in a couple of episodes of Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse.

Why I love it:

It's no secret that I worked at The Book House (in fact, good luck getting me to shut up about it.) Aged 17, I joined the shop as a Saturday assistant whilst still attending the local secondary school and worked there for eight years, coming and going for university, joining as senior staff and taking over care of the children's and YA section. Chatting to the local community, seeing children grow up and reading far and wide, all added to the fact that books and stories were at the heart of learning and family.

My favourite day of the year to work at the shop was always Christmas Eve, when the last rush of customers looking for a perfect gift (or in a last minute panic) would come in and fill the shop with chatter. There was always such a buzz on that day, staff doing a bit of a twister game behind the till in order to serve as many people as possible. With Christmas jumpers, music, mince pies, familiar faces and lots of festive book discussion, it was the perfect way to see in Christmas Day. Excited children running in circles around the shop's circular walkway added to the dizzy anticipation of tomorrow.

The shop is split in to two sections, half dedicated to adult fiction and non-fiction titles, cookery, travel, poetry and arts. The second half is devoted to children's books from baby to teen. It feels like a second home, with a play area and colourful books. I can remember many hours of happy browsing when I was little.

The shop decor is delightfully home made, with hand drawn signs and recommendations from staff and windows full of crafty creations. There is a best sellers table and a Book House top picks shelf with some of the staff's current favourites. To keep things fresh, the category sections occasionally move about like Hogwarts staircases, meaning you spot something that you may have missed on your last visit. It all adds to the sense of stepping into a well thought out and much loved store.

My favourite memories of the shop include hearing the delighted exclamations of children as they greeted Fat Puffin. The lovely Fat Puffin has lived outside the Book House for the past 35 years. He came as a gift from Puffin Books to celebrate their opening as The Book House was one of the first specialist children’s bookshops in the country. Standing at the till, I often heard 'oh look it's a puffin!' 'Say hello.' 'I love you Fat Puffin.' and occasionally 'hello penguin' 'noooo Dad it's a PUFFIN!' That slightly chipped and rattly puffin has had more hugs and kisses than we could ever possibly count.

We hosted midnight openings for the Harry Potter releases, dressed as witches, serving excited kids (and parents) and glaring at those few jokers who thought it would be hilarious to read the last page out loud (Avada kadavra!)

The Book House has also helped establish the Thame, Arts and Literature Festival, with past guests from Michael Rosen to Mary Berry bringing in customers from all around.


At the moment The Book House Twitter has been sharing favourite 2014 titles and goodies for Christmas and the New Year. You can follow them @the_book_house for more updates.

What one book would you buy from there as a Christmas present, and who would you give it to?

The book I will be buying as a Christmas present from The Book House is Arsenic for Tea (it's going to be a preorder IOU for my best friend, as the title isn't published until the end of January.) Arsenic for Tea is the sequel to Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike. With its blend of old fashioned charm, a wonderful diverse cast of characters, and a Midsomer detective mystery, I think it's the perfect book for Thame customers, young and old!

As mentioned above, The Book House is on Twitter, and it also can be found on Facebook. Charlie is on Twitter, blogs at Charlie In A Book, and also writes for the fantastic Inclusive Minds website.

Thank you once again to Charlie for a wonderful post (also, definitely seconding the recommendation for Robin Stevens's Wells and Wong series!) and a huge THANK YOU once more to everyone who's taken part in Indie Advent, or spread the word about it.

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