A blue plaque adorns the building at 10 Curzon Street in London’s Mayfair, where Nancy Mitford worked during the second world war. This was not, however, where the eldest Mitford sister set up a desk and typewriter, but where she worked as a bookseller. Since 1936, Heywood Hill has sold a curated selection of works ranging from modern literature, biography and history to antiquarian editions – but its vast literary expertise can perhaps be best tapped into with a charming service called A Year in Books (£350 hardback; £200 paperback). The bespoke service enables readers to receive a specially selected book once a month to suit their individual tastes.
The first step is a one-to-one consultation with a member of staff, in person or over the phone, for the bookseller to discover the reader’s preferred genres and get a sense of their personality.
“Every month our Year in Books team meets to discuss what to send to whom,” says Nicky Dunne, chairman of Heywood Hill. “We have notes on each customer and we pride ourselves on taking the trouble to ensure the service is special and unique. Between them, our booksellers have over 100 years of experience – but ultimately it’s a question of trust.” The books arrive through the post in the shop’s signature wrapping, along with an illustrated Heywood Hill bookplate.
Godparents in particular will be drawn to A Year in Books for Children for a godchild’s birthday – a service that includes a reminder near the date and a request for a message to be written on a card. The service can start from a very young age with picture books, though the personal consultation between baby and bookseller on this occasion tends to be overlooked...
And of course, there’s no reason not to self-gift too; a beautiful set of books collected over the year could be a wonderful present to oneself.