In 2003, long before I became a volunteer in charity bookshops, my first exposure to secondhand books was here in Bookcase in Carlisle. This 4-floor emporium supplied me through 2 degrees and a stint in research. It can help with reading lists, for sure, but its magic is in providing the unusual, those niche books that give an unconsidered angle through a subject, or angles that have been overlooked or just simply forgotten.
If a library is a memory decided on by publicly appointed professionals, then Bookcase is a parallel memory that twists and turns around it according to the choices made, over the years, by the locals who wanted to clear their shelves for whatever reason, and the customers who responded with their interests.
This process has shaped what is undoubtedly the most overwhelming secondhand bookshop in the North West region of England. True, Barter Books in Alnwick is quite large. And Westwood Books would stand out in a town, let alone a village like Sedbergh. But a visit to Bookcase is a project. The gallery here is only a glimpse. In sympathy, the place has a distribution of comfy chairs, and a filter coffee machine downstairs. These help you to soak up an atmosphere that’s quirked by meandering floor-levels and then electrified by chance discoveries.
The owner is one of the people behind Borderlines, Carlisle’s own book festival. The 2015 festival starts 3rd September. This year’s contributors include Jenny Uglow and Owen Jones.
Click anywhere in the gallery above to get a slideshow.
If you’re visiting Carlisle, then you can also buy secondhand books from the equally excellent, only much smaller Oxfam Bookshop. You might even bump into my good self!
There’s a Discover Carlisle site for anyone interested in non-book attractions, such as places to stay, and most importantly, pubs!