Golden Hare Books, 68 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AQ
When I was about sixteen, my parents took us all away on a long summer holiday, during which our family of six – featuring a gaggle of young teenagers – careened through several countries over a number of weeks.
About two thirds of the way through our travels, when we had all begun to miss our friends and our beds and to annoy each other, we arrived in a new city in the late afternoon. My brothers and I were keen to get to our hotel rooms and relax. When we did, I was surprised and delighted to find – the loveliest thing – that each room had a working, log burning fireplace. I was immediately infatuated and became obsessed with the idea of a room full of books and a roaring fire. Owning such a room is a dream I harbour to this day, though London’s housing market teaches us not to expect anything nearly so lovely.
But on a recent trip to Edinburgh, I got to briefly live out that fantasy in a warm little room packed with books where a fire crackles in the hearth.
Golden Hare Books, in Stockbridge, is comfortable and welcoming. The log fire is kept stoked, and free tea and coffee is laid out for your enjoyment.
The bookshop is a local favourite, with a loyal following, who get their money’s worth through the membership scheme Golden Hare offers, which includes discounts and a free book on your birthday. They run reading and writing groups, author events and book-signings that are regular and well-attended.
Predominantly a literary bookshop, Golden Hare has a great selection of cookbooks,children’s books, contemporary non-fiction & essays, music & media and graphic novels. I’m fairly passive when it comes to discovering new graphic novels; if I come across something interesting or a receive a (trusted) recommendation, I’ll always buy it and think ‘I really must read more graphic novels’, but I don’t follow the genre very closely and don’t often make the effort to explore. A bookshop like this, with a large and intriguing selection, is always useful in balancing my bookshelves.
As you’d expect, the shop carries an excellent stock of Scottish literature. In pride of place were Jackie Kay, the Scots Makar, and Ali Smith, who, in my opinion, is Britain’s Greatest Living Writer. And just a few days before popping into the shop, I’d had the bucket list experience of meeting Ali Smith, at a reading and signing at Foyles in London. One of the (many) things I love about Ali Smith is how often she lends her considerable heft to promoting the work of other authors, particularly other women writers including Kamila Shamsie and Jackie Kay. I live to think of them as a little coven who all try to smash the patriarchy in their little way by saying nice things about each other’s books. I decided to buy Kay’s Bantam collection (how could I resist, in Edinburgh?) and when I took it to the till the bookseller and I exchanged a knowing smile, then a breathless ‘isn’t she wonderful?!’. I told her all about meeting Ali, of course, unable to contain my excitement, and a little bit boastful.
In total, a spent about an hour in Golden Hare Books, and although I only bought one book, came away with a jotted down list of about five others for my list.
Golden Hare is a brilliant place for every kind of reader in every kind of mood. I would come here again looking for something specific, or looking for just something new, or not looking for anything at all. I’d also come back for the chat with other readers, for their events, or just to be in a quiet house of books. And I’ll certainly be back on a cold day, for the warming fire.