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A Magazine for Sheffield

Books: Trawling Sheffield's Book Shops

Holiday booked, six weeks out of the country in distant lands - finally a chance to catch up on an ever-growing list of books that I've thought about reading ever since I've thought about reading books. Step one I thought - make a list. Lists have their own odd sort of satisfaction. As I would be away for a while I figured I could fit in a fair few: Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting or Immortality, two books journeying through a "hedonist's love of eroticism, fantasy and fun with knife sharp political satire," to quote Salman Rushdie. Primo Levi's If This Is A Man, a revered book detailing the writer's time as a prisoner in Auschwitz, but focusing on the strength, resilience and indestructibility of the human spirit. Add to these, Murakami's Kafka on the Shore , Louis de Bernières' The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera and Iain M Banks' The Player of Games... I already had too many. My first stop was Porter Books on Sharrow Vale Road. Despite the 'Back in 5 Minutes' sign, the owner eventually showed up to let me and a few other customers in. This place hosts a fantastic collection of random books and a pleasingly hodge-podge approach to shelving. Levi and de Bernières dispatched from the list and, at £5 for the pair, a bargain. Next I decided to investigate two shops off Rustlings Road by Endcliffe Park. The Last Chapter is located on the corner of the road overlooking the park. Not a large bookshop by any means - and thus initially casting doubt on the likelihood of direct hits on my list - but before the owner could finish his 'Can I help?', I had the Murakami I was after in my hands. The shop is well kept and has a delightful range of well-chosen books to make up for its limited shelf space. The books themselves were all in almost-new condition and averaged at only a couple of quid each. I ended up with Iain M Banks and one of the Kunderas off the list and was offered a deal to bag another, Jason Elliot's book of his journeys in Iran, Mirrors of the Unseen. A highly recommended shop. Across the road is the recently relocated and slightly larger Books on The Park, boasting a large and diverse collection ranging from fiction, religion and philosophy to poetry and the odd vinyl too. As with all the shops thus far, we're talking about a shopping experience as alien to Meadowhall as any sign of culture, all with calm peaceful atmospheres, un-pushy but helpful staff and a sense of how fundamentally important shops like this are for a learned human race. I could spend a happy afternoon in places like this without buying anything. This almost materialised in my next stop. The Rude Shipyard on Abbeydale Road is not just a bookshop, but also a great cafe and general meeting place for the like-minded. The owners casually allowed me to rest my lockless bike in the shop while I weaved among engrossed readers whiling away an afternoon in style. Perfect for those too impatient to get home before tucking in to their latest purchase. Also well worth a mention is the Age UK charity shop on Broomhill high street, where every available surface is crammed full, and which provided more books from my list. You can almost hear a pin drop here, with peaceful staff seemingly busy devouring as many books in their lifetime as physically possible, as realised with the purchase of several books that were personally recommended one after another. The intention of this article is to draw your attention to the wealth of second-hand book shops Sheffield has to offer. They're not all full of worthless, boring old books and grumpy aging men - quite the contrary, in fact. By the end of the afternoon, I had most of the books on my list, with none costing more than £3. Add to those already mentioned, Rare and Racy on Division Street, Oxfam (various) and the host of other charity shops across the city and we're spoilt for choice. So why not make your own list and support some local businesses in need of your custom. If we don't all want to succumb to reading books on a digital screen, and want these vital shops to still exist in years to come, we need to get out there and buy some books. )

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