I first visited a Waterstones bookstore in December 1994, when I was in Cambridge. Waterstones usually has a dark-coloured store front. I had since walked to a few Waterstones around the UK, Manchester, London… but this particular one in Broad Street, Reading, ticks all the boxes of what a great bookstore should be.
I have seen enough mega bookstores in Malaysia, Singapore, China’s big cities, bookstores with cafes, with knowledgeable helpful staff. This Waterstones bookstores is wonderful because of the following reasons:
- The Waterstones store building used to be the independent chapel. The Victorian architecture added a classy ambience to book browsing experience. A high, dome shaped ceiling, effused with natural sun light, with two set of curvy stairs converge right in the middle of the hall.
- The internal decor exudes an exquisite taste. A worn arm chair at the corner, tempting you to sit down, grab a book and read. The children’s corner is equipped with an aquarium, fluffy chairs, soft landing mat. Comfortable sofas at the centre of the first floor hall, the black /navy blue bookshelves accentuate the striking colours of book spines.
- The promotional strategy is equally amazing. A stack of books are adorned with Nick Hornsby’s handwritten recommendation of the books he read and loved. A shelf with handwritten notes of recommendation from the staff of Waterstones, from store assistant, distribution to sales staff.
- There is a full shelf of books for film adaptations and movie tie-in. A full 4 shelves of new publications. A shelf dedicated to featured writers. Many 3 for 2 offers booths. Must reads from old books to new, from classics to contemporary.
Everywhere I look, every book I browse, Waterstones is luring me to buy books from them. Books titles are wide ranging, e.g. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which the library did not stock, great selections of travel books, biographies and fiction titles.
Whenever I run out of ideas of books to read, I would come in here for a stroll and I could go back with list of books to read in my head. These are some titles that spur my interest:
JeffreyEugenides is the writer of The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2002.
Lionel Shriver is clearly one of my favourite writer, Haruki Murakami too. Rose Tremain’s The Road Home was my favourite read of 2008. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature 2008, Soul Mountain Gao Xiang Han is a Nobel Prize Laureate 2000. Ayn Rand was first mentioned as a personal friend of Alan Greenspan, a political activist, creator of objectivism, her books are now in Penguin classics titles.
There are so many good books to read, really, one shouldn’t have to endure a mediocre work and read it till the last page. Recently, I am cultivating the habit of not finishing a book, if I feel it is not worth my time.
Clearly some of the book titles are already sitting in my reservation list. Of all the bookstores in the UK, WH Smith, Borders etc. Waterstones is probably the best. It is classy, titles are wide ranging, not run of the mill from the current bookseller’s chart. The public libraries are doing a good job too. I tried looking up for the new book titles in the public library. Guess what? I always find them, albeit a bit of a queue sometimes. For this reason, I love the UK!!
Read about the birth of Waterstones bookstores here. Fascinating.