Review: The Last Bookshop

Entertainment

Independent bookshops are a dying race, callously destroyed by online purchases and dooming their owners to disillusioning profit losses. However, on 25 Walton Street, a survivor determinedly battles on. The Last Bookshop, providing quaint mint-green tables outside for those who wish to read with a coffee, and a perpetual deal of two books for five pounds, offers a charm that far surpasses the sterility of an ‘add to basket’ click. And so whilst its name gives it the pessimistic undertones of a dystopia, self-referentially recognising the difficulty of independent bookshops’ survival, nonetheless this Jericho treasure never fails to persevere and to enchant its visitors.

The Last Bookshop, providing quaint mint-green tables outside for those who wish to read with a coffee, and a perpetual deal of two books for five pounds, offers a charm that far surpasses the sterility of an ‘add to basket’ click

The Last Bookshop is managed by owners Jack Pumphrey and Nick Walsh, who opened the site in Jericho because of the location’s literary heritage as the inspiration for scenes from Jude the Obscure and Lyra’s Oxford in Northern Lights. The business partners’ main source of profit comes from a warehouse at Grove Farm, Milton Hill, as they supply other bookshops and online shoppers with the excess stock. Yet, whereas many discount bookshops only sell drab Wordsworth Classics, or tacky romances intended for middle-aged women’s beach holidays, the Last Bookshop has an amazing collection, spanning from philosophy, art, history and fiction books – all at bargain prices. This is especially beneficial for English students like myself, because at merely three pounds a book, The Last Bookshop’s plethora of classics offers a more feasible way to stock up on new reading lists.

Beyond the first floor’s mixture of modern publications and older works by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Hardy, curious shoppers can venture down to the shop’s basement, descending the poster-covered stairs to discover an Aladdin’s cave of second-hand books, all individually priced. Downstairs is truly where a book-lover’s student loan faces its worst peril, as the shop has lots of antique, beautifully bound classics by Dickens, the Brontës and more. I came away with a dusty copy of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey, and found a late nineteenth-century inscription on its title-page, affirming the special nature of independent bookshops – the charm that Waterstones or WHSmith, try as it might, can never fully provide. Rather than just selling archaic classics, The Last Bookshop also has different sections, each with a specialism, so you find books on a multitude of subjects, ranging from geography to politics; the store even sells used vinyl records.

Curious shoppers can venture down to the shop’s basement, descending the poster-covered stairs to discover an Aladdin’s cave of second-hand books

The Last Bookshop is also an arts venue, hosting talks and events, and has a small café on-site, with the staff-member on the till serving reasonably priced coffee and tea that you can drink outside, whilst excitedly opening the first page of your recent purchase. The staff have an impressive knowledge of their stock, and whilst I visited, any questions about which titles they currently had were answered with real friendliness. It is clear that the shop has some fierce competition, from the award-winning three miles of shelves in Blackwell’s Norrington Room to well-loved institutions like Oxfam. However, The Last Bookshop’s very name attests to its endurance and originality, standing apart from the crowd and attracting the affection of both students and residents.

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