Hay-on-Wye: a crack den for book lovers.

After twenty years of marriage my husband knows me well. One of the reasons we have survived this long is that he demonstrates a tolerance of my messiness and obsessions that’d make any self-respecting stoic proud. He’s also a bit of a diamond. On the weekend of our anniversary, he whisked me off on a surprise visit to Hay-on-Wye and let me loose on the bookshops.


At first, I was so overwhelmed on finding myself in this magnificent literary crack den, that I couldn’t find anything. I just didn’t know where to start. I wandered bewildered around bookshops, my feet creaking on the polished wooden floors, to a soundtrack of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, passing row upon row of books, frozen by the sheer scale of possibilities. How ironic to lose my book-browsing mojo, in this, the Mecca of book emporiums.

Then I chanced upon the first volume of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage in the Hay Cinema Bookshop (no 19 on the map) which I’d been hoping to buy for a friend’s daughter’s 15th birthday, and the curse was broken. I’ll talk you through my haul.


My next stop was Boz Books (no. 18) where I picked up a couple of Penguin classics – a Zola and a Balzac that were on the reduced shelf.


After a stop for a cuppa I found all the gold in the Hay-On-Wye Booksellers (no. 12) where the paperbacks were a glorious pound a pop and I was like a zombie in a swimming pool on a bank holiday Monday.

Having failed to find a single book on gymnastics for my daughter, I did find this, which I bought for her as a good accompaniment to the Moby Dick Big Read recordings that we’re currently listening to.


Finding myself laden with books, I decided I needed to reign in the madness, but I couldn’t resist bargain copies of Knausgaard and Jon Ronson in The Addyman Annexe (no. 15).


Even after making a special trip a little way out of town to The Children’s Bookshop (no. 1), I’d still drawn a blank on my quest for a book for my gymnastics-obsessed daughter, so I had a rethink, and as she’s also a bit partial to a school story, I was spoilt for choice by the selection of beautiful editions on offer in the Children’s Bookshop. In the end, totally charmed by the fabulous covers, I plumped for these and then called it a day.


After such an almighty book-buying bender, I’m putting myself into DIY rehab. Apart from purchasing my monthly book group book, I’m going cold turkey on the secondhand bookshops for a while. Apart from anything else, I’m out of shelf space, so I may even, *deep breath* have to have a bit of a purge. I fear counselling may be required.