Name and location: Village Books, Dulwich Village
Why I love it: I haven’t been to Village Books in Dulwich Village for about a decade now, but it still holds its place as my favourite bookshop. This is the place where I discovered my favourite book, Northern Lights (still my favourite book), and other treasured titles such as Harry Potter and Malorie Towers. I remember being too small to reach the Horrible Histories and my parents having to pass book after book to me until I decided which one I wanted (for the record, Vile Victorians is the best of them). It was always filled with tables piled with books, and shelves that stretched so high it hurt my neck to look up at them. Granted, I was anywhere between six and ten and if I went back now those tables wouldn’t be stretching far above me, but at that age and height being surrounded by piles of books towering over me was my idea of heaven. If you saw my bedroom floor now, it looks like I’m trying to recreate that, and maybe I am.
This is the place that handed me my first edition signed by JK Rowling Harry Potter books, well books two to four, at least. It’s the place that helped get Jacqueline Wilson (the first author I ever met) visit my school, and it’s also the place that stoked my love of stories, reading and books.
These days, I live on the other side of London and unfortunately there aren’t many indie bookshops within reaching distance. My nearest is in Kew, another lovely place, but it’s just too far away. I have, and worked for, a Waterstones for a year and a half, so have a certain allegiance to them. My local Waterstones is a wonderful place, but in my new job I keep coming across titles that have been buried under twenty years of living, and are resurfacing along with the memory of Village Books. It was, and I hope still is, a magical place where a new world could always be discovered. I like to think there’s another little girl standing under a shelf that’s too high for her, being handed book after book by her long suffering parents. She’ll decide what she wants eventually, but only because she knows she’ll be back next week.
What I’d buy as a Christmas present and who I’d give it to: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, to give to everyone who doubts the power of words and stories. It’s her first YA novel and is an incredible testament to the healing power that can come from books, you’re reading or writing them.