June 06 2010
Edinburgh is home to some of today’s most successful writers – Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, JK Rowling – and yet I’ve always felt that the city lacks great bookshops. Sure, there are plenty of chain stores, stacked to the rafters with “celebrity” authors and big-volume sellers, and there’s also an abundance of secondhand bookshops. But I’ve never been able to find a proper bookshop selling new literary works.
Then a few months ago a publisher friend introduced me to a tiny independent bookshop that provides literary locals – Rankin and McCall Smith among them – with their own fix. Owned by Vanessa and Malcolm Robertson, who also own the Edinburgh publishing company, Fidra Books, the shop preserves the flavour of the fine old bookshops of yesteryear while keeping its content fresh and contemporary.
Vanessa and her staff will happily chat for hours about the merits of their stock of translated literary fiction from the likes of Per Petterson and Ivan Turgenev, or the latest in crime fiction from Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum. And I’ve found their individually tailored recommendations to be spot on: I love historical fiction, and Bluestockings by Jane Robinson (£10) turned out to be a gripping account of women fighting for the right to be educated.
And, should you fancy further soaking up the Edinburgh literary scene, only a few doors down the street is the café Falko, where established and aspiring writer-residents can be spotted, with coffee and notebook in hand.