You would think that Cambridge, of all places, could sustain an attractive general bookshop. But sadly not so. The University Press shop is quite nicely done, but of course only sells CUP books, so doesn’t count. We are stuck with Waterstone’s (a rather cavernous place, far too big to be comfortable, where we sometimes dash in to pick up “3 for 2” newly paperbacked novels for holiday reading, but which is entirely uninviting for idle browsing), and with Heffers (which is now Blackwell’s, and isn’t bad for philosophy books, but — stuck in a nasty subterranean hole under part of Trinity — is equally uninviting for non-work browsing).
What I’d love is a proper shop like the London Review Bookshop, which is just the right size, not so large it daunts but still large enough to surprise and delight, which has bookshelves high enough to need step ladders (as every decent bookshop obviously ought), which has comfortable chairs to read in, has eclectic and enticing selections of books displayed on the tables, is evidently run by people who care … and has a proper coffee shop attached. Not yet another Costa-almost-tastes-like-Coffee Shop with horrible pastries, but an individual and idiosyncratic place with wonderful cakes and books and magazines around. It doesn’t seem much to ask.