Hythe is a lovely seaside town in Kent and it is quite a well kept secret, unlike Whitstable. If I were going to live by the seaside I’d choose Hythe for it’s extensive seafront and eclectic High Street shops as well as the fact that it doesn’t tend to attract excessive tourists. We visit all year round loving a walk along the front in all seasons. And it turns out that Elizabeth Bowen, the author of The Heat of the Day that I reviewed very recently, lived in the town during her lifetime, moving there with her family when they left Ireland and returning there later in her life. There is a blue plaque outside her last home.
A visit to the Hythe bookshops needs to be time conscious in that one of them is only open on a Friday and Saturday. The Malthouse is an antiques centre at the bottom of the High Street and hosts a number of dealers with specialisms including military items, china, linen, vinyl and of course books.
Brenda has run the book stall for quite a few years now and her area has just recently been extended, probably increasing by about a further 50%, this has improved the area massively.
I had a nice chat with Brenda when I visited recently and it was a pleasure to find a real book fan! She loves visiting bookshops around the country but thinks that her offerings are definitely the best in the area. She carefully considers her book displays and was just working on a Lake District section when I arrived highlighting Swallows and Amazons and a bit of Wordsworth. Brenda definitely presents a good quality second hand bookshop, she has excellent offerings from most of the authors you’ll be looking for, I bought a Tolkien, a Zadie Smith and a Daphne Du Maurier. But there are excellent offerings in the children’s section, the cookery section and the local history section. Brenda also let me know about the work she is doing in phone boxes in the area where she is setting up little lending libraries in the remote villages around Hythe. I visited one nearby and found a quaint English Village with a red phonebox at its heart and a nice shelving area of a little mix of books. It was probably a little too remote and it didn’t look particularly well used as it was just not a thoroughfare and sadly the books looked a little like they were rotting in the wet weather. But the idea is lovely and local Councils are approaching Brenda about setting them up. Her instructions suggest that these books can be read or to use in crafting. I really like the idea of a bookseller giving permission for particular books to be used in crafting. It always concerns me that this craze for book folding or printing on pages from books sees decent books being used and particularly first editions. I’m sure they have been! Can you imagine…
Brenda asked me during our chat if I was talking about charity book shops in my blog and I told her that I was and that just last week I had blogged about them. She explained that some charity shops were excellent and understood books but others threw a lot away and underpriced them and they generally had a huge negative impact on booksellers. She explained that for many years she barely broke even on being a bookseller and that for her it is more about the passion than making money. And that is such a common thread for booksellers. And feeds back into my initial inspiration for starting this journey. The independent booksellers do it for love, to get the books out there, to give us the shop to mooch around. Support them by doing that and buying at book!
But back to the bookshops and fortuitously there is a charity book shop in the town. This is a book shop I have been visiting for years and I never walk away empty handed. They have an excellent range of vintage literary fiction and a lovely bookshelf of rare and old books. But nothing is particularly expensive and despite walking out with several bags of books I’ve never spent more than £20 in there. Plus the volunteers are always entertaining. There’s always some drama going on that they are telling each other about!
The bookshops of Hythe are not extensive and they’re not particularly big but I am never disappointed. It is definitely a town with an abundance of coffee shops and charity shops so despite the small number of book shops you’ll find plenty to do! But remember, Friday and Saturday!