Sunday, 14 December 2014

Indie Advent: Maggie Harcourt on Toppings, Bath

After an international weekend for Indie Advent, we're back in the UK for today's post! One of my big plans for next year is to get to Bath to check out the wonderful bookshops there, so it's great to have author Maggie Harcourt posting about Toppings!

Topping & Company Booksellers, The Paragon, Bath

Toppings is everything a bookshop should be. The windows are piled high with carefully curated displays and blackboards listing authors who will be visiting for events. Step through the door to find lovingly-filled tall wooden shelves, as well as tables adorned with flower arrangements and magazines - and even the odd pot of coffee to sip while you browse. Buying something here feels special, somehow. Even if you're not buying actual books, you might want to get a ticket to one of their many amazing author readings and events, or possibly for part of the programme to one of their festivals. (If you book for one of these online, you still have to pop into the shop to pick up your ticket, which the staff keep in a basket behind the till - it's a brilliant chance to have a chat with the booksellers, all of whom are lovely.) Some of the events are held in the shop, but others take place in a beautiful local church - which in itself is pretty amazing.

Toppings prides itself on its independent spirit - so you can never quite predict which books you'll find, and that makes it the perfect browsing bookshop. Cosy and welcoming, it could have felt old-fashioned, but instead it feels somehow timeless - a little like it fell out of a novel itself.

You might have to go looking for it - like Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights (our other legendary local bookshop) it's tucked away just outside the main shopping areas of Bath - but what you'll find is well worth the effort; an intimate, warm place which feels as though it's always been there. Maybe it always has.

As a long-time bookshop addict, I've lost a lot of time to these places over the years - but Toppings is the one that feels like home.

If I'm buying Christmas presents in Toppings, there are a couple of books I'd be really pushed to choose between - so I'm going to cheat and pick both. I can always wrap them as one gift, right?
One is David Almond's "A Song For Ella Grey", which I read in the autumn and fell completely in love with. It's beautifully, powerfully written, and a loose retelling of my favourite myth: Orpheus and Eurydice.  (And I'd be giving it to anyone who stood still long enough for me to put a copy into their hands.)

The other is John Lewis-Stempel's "Meadowland", which looks at the life of a single field in the Welsh borders through a year. The writing is gorgeous, and I learned things I never knew I never knew! Even if you don't think you're interested in rural settings, this is a book to lose yourself in.

You can find Toppings on their website and on Twitter.

Maggie Harcourt is the author of "The Last Summer of Us", coming from Usborne Books in May 2015. You can follow her on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.

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