Ode to an Excellent Bookshop

I don’t normally buy new books these days. I tend to use the library and sometimes buy secondhand out of print. The exception is if I’m in an independent bookshop. Some of my favourites are in London and last Thursday and Friday I visited two branches of this shop :  Daunt Books.

On Thursday I popped into the Hampstead Branch at South End Road near the former bookshop in which George Orwell worked now a branch of Le Pain Quotidien (right).

The shop advertises a great idea that I had never heard of before : Daunt Books Walking Book Club! I hope the weather stays fine for them.

On Friday I revisited the shop and its sister branch opposite Belsize Park tube station. I had decided to take up the “challenge” put to me by a member of my local book group to choose a couple of suggestions for future reads for the group. After a search of the tables and shelves I came up with (and bought) my two choices.

Deep Country: five years in the Welsh hills” by Neil Ansell is “Touching. Through Ansell’s charming and thoroughly detailed stories of run-ins with red kites, curlews, sparrowhawks, jays and ravens, we see hime lose himself … in the rhythms and rituals of life in the British wilderness.” (Financial Times)


The hare and the tortoise” by Elizabeth Jenkins – well, if it’s good enough for discussion on Hampstead Heath on Sunday, it’s good enough for us! Jenkins lived very near South End Road on Downshire Hill. Her memoir ‘The View from Downshire Hill‘ tells about her life and home and living in this delightful area of north London.

8 Downshire Hill, Hampstead. The former home of Elizabeth Jenkins.

Another author who lived very near here was the poet John Keats and that very morning I had heard a brief radio snippet in which there is a visit to the Keats Shelley House in Rome where Keats died on 23 February 1821. I visited Rome back in 2008 and it was one of the highlights of the trip to see inside The Keats Shelley Museum by the Spanish Steps. There is a Landmark Property at the top of the building : Piazza di Spagna. How I would love to stay here!

The Salone, Keats-Shelley House

The Salone is dedicated to the posthumous reputations of Keats, Shelley and Byron. The main library collection of the house is here.

Keats House, Hampstead.

I am convinced more and more day by day that fine writing is next to fine doing the top thing in the world.

(John Keats 1795-1821~Letter to J. H. Reynolds, 24 August 1819, in H. E. Rollins (ed.) ‘The Letters of John Keats’ (1958) vol. 2, p. 146.)

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.

Letter, August 28, 1819, to his sister Fanny Keats. Letters of John Keats, no. 146, ed. Frederick Page (1954).

Have you seen ‘Bright Star’?


7 comments on “Ode to an Excellent Bookshop

  1. sherry says:

    I loved Tortoise and the Hare. Keep meaning to track down more of her books. Will have to investigate your other book.

  2. Sherry, thanks. I’m kind of hoping that the group will agree to both books – you never know!

  3. Nilly says:

    Yes, Keats became my favourite poet and perfect romantic hero on my grandmother’s (bony!) knee so I could not miss “Bright Star”. Beautiful clothes too. Thanks for more interesting and useful information.

  4. Hello again, Nilly. I enjoyed searching for Keats quotes for this post but I think Thomas Hardy may be my favourite. And I nearly made a comment about the wonderful clothes but left the post simply as it was for readers to discover (or remember) for themselves.

  5. The Tortoise and the Hare is such a good book and EJ one of the few authors I kept my pledge and wrote to while she was still alive…I always wish I had when writers die so am trying to write to the living ones now when I really admire their books. By this time EJ was 104 and in a nursing home but I had a lovely reply from one of her carers.
    Bright Star is on my list Barbara, and I love Hampstead too, my first nurses’ home was in Belsize Park so happy memories. I did the du Maurier trail last time I was there and also visited Penelope Fitzgerald’s grave in the church cemetery, so many places to wander.

  6. I really enjoyed this post! I keep seeing The Tortoise and the Hare in bookshops but I had no idea if it was good or not. You’ve got me most intrigued!
    I love the Keats quotations you added. It amazes me how modern he sounds – his wish for books, French wine, and music still stands good today.
    I pounced on “Bright Star” as soon as it came out on DVD but I confess I was sadly disappointed: there was none of the Romantic passion I expected. But perhaps I sould watch it again…

  7. […] may remember that I mentioned  Daunt Books‘ Walking Book Group in a previous post. Well, at last I have managed to coincide my visit to […]

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