Shop Review: Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick became an international book shop sensation when it discovered the infamous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ propaganda poster from WWII.

It is one of the largest second-hand book shops in Britain, home to 350,000 books and located in a derelict railway station. The interior of the shop is beautiful – a rustic theme is maintained throughout, as well as a true love of literature shining through. On the back wall of Barter Books are bars of lights in red and orange positioned in the shape of sun rays. I think it’s perfectly fitting as books are a real source of light in many ways.

Prices vary in Barter Books depending on the subject, availability in mainstream publication and, of course, the age of the edition. If you have old books that you wish to get rid of, you can trade them in at the desk and get credit (basically money off) for future purchases.

Literature in general is cheap and made up the bulk of my haul. I purchased Emma and Persuasion by Jane Austen (they came to £2.70), Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (they came to £4.40). Some other classics like Wuthering Heights are a bargain at 90p.

If you’re after some philosophy, politics, history or religion books, the range that was available during my visit was a pretty poor show. I didn’t get any of the philosophy books I wanted, sadly, and I picked up only two non-fiction books during my haul. Peter Trudgill’s Sociolinguistics and Simon Parke’s The Enneagram were the only two I found.

Overall, it’s well worth a trip for any book-lover. Barter Books has its own cafe too, so lunch in there is a good idea. However, if you want to explore other parts of Alnwick, I recommend Baileys Cafe, just a few minutes down the road.