Last week I visited Rooke Books which is probably Bath’s best-kept bookaholic secret. Some sensible people would just quietly keep this biblio-paradise to themselves. I was tempted, but now feel compelled to share the experience with you; the bubble chairs alone are too good (and numerous) to enjoy all by myself.
I stumbled across Rooke’s on my way through pedestrian thoroughfare Northumberland Place, blearily seeking caffeine at one of several coffee-serving establishments nearby. It’s just a stone’s throw from the Guildhall and couldn’t be more central: head for Neal’s Yard up the alley past Cafe Nero and you’ll be pretty much opposite. The then window arrangement of mid-twentieth century crime and science fiction was what first caught my eye; I used to work in the publicity department for Victor Gollancz, and was the press officer in charge of the crime output, as well as opening the twiglets for many a science fiction launch (no expense spared).
But I finally stepped through the door of this bookshop just a couple of weeks ago. I’m so glad I did, because Isha, the manageress, greeted me with a lovely smile, and what looked from the outside like a cosy little second-hand/antiquarian bookshop suddenly opened up like an 18th century tardis: four floors, at last count. If you climb up one floor, you get to sit in this bubble-chair and ogle the glorious eighteenth-century-style wallpaper.
If you climb up two floors you get to browse the textile and fashion sections and sit in one of two bubble chairs. [This could be the plot of an Eric Carle book, right? The Very Erudite Caterpillar, perhaps.] Then there’s the glam black-and-white flocked wallpaper. Wow!
Here’s a page from an embroidery book which I dutifully browsed (I had to test the chairs, you see). Isn’t it exuberant?
The shop’s only stated speciality is first editions so you can find just about everything from needlework to Noddy to Nabokov (Isha once had a first edition of Lolita in the shop). Rooke ‘s online sister establishment handles the rarer titles, so everything you’ll see in Rooke’s is under the £50 benchmark.
The bricks-and-mortar shop is looking to host several book groups, so if you think you’d be interested in, say, in a specialist crime reading group, or a Jane Austen group, or any other area, do get in touch with them. Tell them what you’d be interested in, and whether a day or evening meet-up would suit you best. I can’t promise they’ll give you exactly what you want, but I’m sure they’ll attempt to be accommodating. They will also be hosting a group for aspiring writers; Isha has an MA in Creative Writing.
I think the only thing that could improve the place would be a coffee machine. Then I might not need to stop elsewhere nearby. And (as Topping Books‘ example amply proves) the free coffee trick invariably results in a reciprocal grateful purchase or several, especially when a few moments’ relaxation in a bubble chair is involved.
Rook Books, 16 Northumberland Place, Bath, BA1 6QD
Telephone: +44 (0)1225 448831 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS You’ll find a few more pictures here on my Flickr photostream. I didn’t buy any of those embroidery books so if you hurry you may still find them there on the top floor!
PPS Northumberland Place is a bit of a gem in itself, completed by 1749 and housing Bath’s smallest pub, the Coeur de Lion. I’m wondering what was here in Jane Austen’s day but haven’t researched it, so if you can cast any light on that, please do get in touch.