Harbour Books, 21 Harbour St, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 1AQ
Late November is an interesting time to go for a walk on the beach.
Whistable Beach in Kent was almost deserted except for a handful of brave dog walkers and particularly persistent joggers. It was raining hard enough to notice and the wind was up, so it was difficult to take in the sights that make this seaside town so beloved. But looking out at the sea is always a worthwhile thing to do, even if it was only for a few minutes before scurrying back into the town.
Sopping wet and shivering, Harbour Books with its elegant storefront and beautiful artwork in the front window was a relief.
With two floors of new books in fiction and non-fiction, Harbour Books is the kind of establishment that makes a small town feel like a place, and not just a collection of houses and cafés. I always feel like an independent bookshop gives a place its soul.
On the ground floor is fiction, including a selection of contemporary literary fiction and best sellers as well as a quite well-stocked A-Z of novels. There are staff recommendations, a bit of a focus on local authors and a decent range of children’s books. And there are lots of bookish gifts like notebooks, mugs and tote bags. It’s good all the charms of the very best bookshops, with hard wood floors that creak pleasingly underfoot, inspiring quotes painted on the walls in ornate cursive and friendly booksellers quietly chatting away to customers, recommending Christmas presents.
Upstairs is quieter; people just popping in for a browse don’t always make it to the upstairs of a bookshop. It’s the home of non-fiction including inspiring cook books, politics, local interest, gardening, nature writing, travel and an excellent collection of history books arranged chronologically by subject.
Perhaps because I don’t often read history books, I often find myself wondering about the people who do. My eyes immediately go to the novels or, failing that, for books that comment on the world as it is now, that look at contemporary issues that affect the world around me and about which I might conceivably be able to do something. I must confess that history books never attract me. But seeing a selection so carefully put together as the one at Harbour Books is cheering because it is a reminder that it takes all types of readers to make the world go round, and that for someone, this thoughtful, organised array of books will be an absolute feast. To those other readers who are getting something that I’m missing, I salute you.
Harbour Books feels like the kind of place that is all about books and friends.
With a 25 year history in Whistable, it’s like the friend that’s always been there for you. It champions local books by local authors, celebrating them like returning heroes. It introduces new books and reminds you of old friends that pop up from time to time to suprise you. It’s also a place for new friends, whether you’re chatting about books with a friendly bookseller or sharing poetry, prose and prosecco with new friends at their monthly Words on Waves evenings.
I hope to visit the next time I’m in Whistable and the time after that. Situated right near the harbour, perhaps it’s also a little bit like a lighthouse, guiding you out from the cold and the wet and into a safe and friendly place.