Hay-on-Wye is a little town of about 1500 people that sits just on the border of England and Wales and is most famous for the Hay Festival, the annual gathering that celebrates literature and the arts.
But the town’s other claim to fame is that it is the ‘Town of Books.’ Despite its small size and population, the town is home to more than thirty bookshops. In 1962, when Richard Booth opened the first one, Hay was a quiet little place in the Welsh borders but within ten years, it had become Mecca for bibliophiles, as dozens of other bookshops clustered around it. In 1977, Booth declared it The Independent Kingdom of Hay, and since then, the town, its literary festival and its many bookshops have made it heaven for book tourists.
I am one such tourist. The incompatibility of our little tent with the rainy Welsh weather aside, it has been brilliant to see writers, artists, philosophers and booksellers talk to sold-out crowds about the things they love. But Hay’s bookshops have really stolen my heart and with a running total of eight books bought, I am going a little bit crazy.
While it is impossible to really go through all the bookshops in the town on such a short trip, over the next couple of days I will try (if I can pull apart the blur of book-related bliss and organise them into separate bookshops) to walk you, my beloved readers, through the bookshops of Hay, in the hopes that you will fall in love with them the way I have.
Stay posted, and happy reading.