May 7, 2013

Bath and Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

My literary pilgrimage of the UK continues: the latest place I got to tick off my list was lovely Bath, land of Roman ruins and elegant Georgian buildings. Bath is also famous among book lovers for being the home of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, an independent bookshop that has been twice voted the best in the UK.

The moment I stepped in, I could see why. Visiting Mr B’s was a little like going to a smart and interesting friend’s house and carefully perusing their bookshelves: you know you’re going to find promising books of whose existence you were previously unaware. And even better than that, you know that whatever you find will come with a personalised recommendation. Mr B’s Emporium manages to recreate this feeling by making copious use of reader to reader as well as bookseller to reader recommendations. There are staff favourite shelves, themed displays, reader reviews pinned to the walls, you name it. My visit left me full of ideas for creating a sense of connection among readers that I’d love to try at my library.

Sadly Bath is far away enough that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take advantage of their events, but I got the impression that this is a bookshop that knows how to place itself at the centre of a vibrant community of readers. Allow me to give you the tour:

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights

Tell us about a book you love

Best idea ever — and of course that now I want to see if I can adapt it for my library. The books mentioned included The Thief, I Kill Giants and The Fault in our Stars, which immediately made me feel at home.

Bibliotherapy room sign

Inside the Bibliotherapy room

Staff picks, include The Brides of Rollrock Island and His Dark Materials
Any bookshop that places The Brides of Rollrock Island among the staff favourites is a bookshop after my own heart.

A list of books featuring folk tales retold from our event with Patrick Ness - includes Deathless by Cat Valente, The Snow Child, Wildwood, and Binu and the Great Wall
It was nice to get a little glimpse of the Patrick Ness event they had a few weeks before my visit.

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights - more from the inside

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights - more from the inside

Tintin wallpaper
Tintin wallpaper, because why not?

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights - more from the inside

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights - more from the inside

Old typewriter

Cushion signed my visiting authors
Cushion signed by visiting authors.

Lampshade signed by visiting authors go along with this signed lampshade.

Patrick Ness' signature
And look what I found :D

Old bathtub filled with books
And since I’m at it, here are a few pictures of Bath itself:

The Roman Baths, Bath
The Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths, Bath

The Royal Crescent, Bath
Mandatory classic Bath shot.

Bath seen from Prior Park
The city and the Somerset hills seen from Prior Park.

Charlie Butler was here, 1839
1839 graffiti on the bridge.

Prior Park, Bath

Holburne Museum, Bath

Riverside Park, Bath

Bath Abbey seem from afar

Slightly creepy doll and man in period gear outside the Jane Austen centre
Slightly creepy doll and man in period gear outside the Jane Austen centre.

Here lived Jane Austen - Number 4 Sydney Place
Here Lived Jane Austen - Number 4 Sydney Place.

Handmade Teddy Bears in shop window
Bath also has the coolest independent shops.

Kiss the frog again shop sign

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Sally Lunn's, Bath

Bath buns with cinnamon and lemon curd

Part of the Medieval Wall of the City of Bath

Georgian doorway
As you can probably tell from the pictures, I was very lucky with the weather, and the result was an absolutely lovely long weekend. To those of you who know the UK, what’s the next bookshop or bookish place you think I should visit?


  1. Bath is so lovely! I've been twice, but never to the bookshop you visited. Next time I'll have to go there! Maybe for your next UK bookish adventure you could do Stratford-Upon-Avon for Shakespeare or Winchester to see Austen's grave. Jealous of your UK weekend getaways! I heard that you can buy Austen stamps in England right now too! That's just too fantastic.

  2. Thanks so much for the suggestions, Melissa - I've been to neither and they're not terribly far from me :D My partner and I realised recently that despite all our plans we're just not going to be able to travel abroad in the near future (I work alternate weekends, which affects my availability, and plus money is tight right now), but fortunately there are tons of places in the UK we can explore in a quick weekend getaway. I want to make a big list and see if I can get myself excited about our upcoming adventures :D

  3. When I lived in England I never took a trip to Bath and after looking at your photos I really wish I had. It looks like quite a lovely city. And that bookshop - WOW! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mr. B's and Bath look marvelous! The Belgian restaurant here has Tintin wallpaper in the bathroom.

  5. We spent a few days in Bath in 2008 and your post brought back many happy memories - thank you!! Mr. B's was a true delight, as were the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, and all the other locations you photographed.

    We spent a couple of hours in Stratford-Upon-Avon during our 2011 trip, and would love to visit again when we have more time. I would like to venture into Bronte country next time!

  6. What a beautiful city is Bath-my one time in the UK I missed it because my daughter had already been.
    The bookshop is fantastic! What a our fairly large city and many suburbs we have no indep. book stores anymore and I have heard Barnes and Noble is even struggling. It would be worth the trip just for the bookshop.

  7. How lovely! I didn't expect Bath to be so beautiful and green; the only thing you ever see in the movies are the stone buildings and the pump room. I also love the lampshade. :D

  8. Ah, Bath is so beautiful! Thanks for the virtual tour. :) I've been twice, but I've never been to Mr. B's...looks wonderful! Next time. I recognize the Roman baths, though. And I always remember I had the best ever pasties in Bath...

  9. That bookshop is AWESOME. I love that idea for people to share their favorite books!

  10. What a lovely trip! Mr B's looks like a great shop. And all the photos, what a lovely town Bath is!

  11. I never see cool book shops like this! So couldn't really recommend you anywhere. I went to Bath when I was child and enjoyed it I would really like to go back as an adult. Even if its just to go to this shop!

  12. What fab weather you had! I love Bath and will hopefully be able to make space for a trip this year (although part of mine will be spent I the spa I think). Someone already said Stratford, so yes seconded but you can do most of the stuff there in a day so unless you're theatre going/doing a theatre tour you don't need a weekend trip (go to the theatre, the RSC is so good). Have you been to Hay on Wye yet? I haven't managed a trip yet but it's full of specialist book shops and supposed to be v pretty.

  13. Ana - That's a fantastic idea. I haven't been able to travel abroad in the last few years because of finances, but I love taking mini-adventures in the areas near me. The UK is a perfect place to do that!

  14. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful place! It must have been hard to leave the bookshop. I'm so glad you two had such a wonderful trip!!! :D

  15. Wow, Bath is completely lovely. I haven't had a good picture in my head of what it looked like before in all the Jane Austen books. No wonder everyone always wanted to go there and hang out! It's beautiful.

  16. Lovely pictures! I especially like the one with the old typewriter!

  17. These photos are just lovely! One UK book place that I wish I could go back to is Hay on Wye. It's on the Welsh-English border near Hereford, England and it's a book lover's paradise. Almost every business in town, including the castle, is a bookshop! I've also been told there's a book barge that shows up in different towns on different days, but I've never seen it myself.


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