One of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh is to stroll north of the city centre to Stockbridge and daydream about owning a huge Georgian property there. It’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods in any city, anywhere. The architecture, shops, cafés and bars are all magical, but I only discovered this part of town relatively recently, in 2014, when one of my favourite bookshops – the Golden Hare – closed on the Grassmarket, and reopened in the New Town. Ever since then my Stockbridge safaris have been a regular occurrence.
I’m not, I’m somewhat ashamed to say, someone who takes a lot of pleasure in browsing bookshops. But the Golden Hare pushes specific pleasure buttons for me. The interior – by designers and graphic novelists Mill & Jones – is bright, modern and calm, with books spread out in a way that catches the eye without being overwhelming. Everything about it is visually pleasing. Whenever I’m there, I overhear staff advising customers about what they may like with the kind of unpretentious authority that is rare in stores like this. Yes, there are copious amounts of handwritten suggestion cards on the shelves, but there’s something for everyone. I particularly like the shelves of mystery books, each wrapped and presented blind; you are invited to take a punt based on the description and the promise that “if you liked such and such author and book, you’ll love this”.
This is a shop that truly justifies the use of the word “curated” – it was, after all, established by former V&A director Mark Jones. The way the well-bought stock is displayed means you are likely to happen upon something unique. On my last visit, this was a signed edition of HELL, a new English translation of the first part of Dante’s Divine Trilogy, created and illustrated by my favourite Scottish author, Alasdair Gray. In fact, I never leave without a new purchase or two – a commendable feat for an independent bookseller in 2019.