Saturday 8 July 2023


Ten years ago I opened a second hand bookshop by mistake in Penrith, which obviously had to be called Withnail Books. During that decade I’ve sold (certainly) thousands of books to (probably) thousands of people. Some of them said some pretty memorable things: sometimes to me, sometimes to others, or indeed to themselves, as I sat quietly earwigging.

I just type it down folks… and it's become a book...

"These books and that? Are they just for decoration?" Actual Customer Quotes from a Secondhand Bookshop only exists as a couple of hard copies I made for my own entertainment, BUT, anyone who wants one can have a PDF/ebook version FOR FREE! Just email me at and I'll send you one.

Here's a small sample...

“I went out with a girl who smelled of coconut once. Put me off coconut for life.”

“I can quite accurately date books by their smell. There’s a certain era of American books which are really smelly.”

(He’s quite right.)

“It’s very hard to find knitted vegetables.”

“Oh, he was borderline genius. He could read barcodes without the numbers.”

To her companion, who remained silent: “I love old books. I love to look at old books. I like the look of them. I’ll not be buying one mind. You’re not impressed by books, are you? I like the look of them though. Looking at them.”

“My mate is the world’s leading authority on parasitic wasps.”

Over his shoulder on leaving, after our long conversation about book collecting:

“You and me, we’re both patients in the same clinic...”

As the tenth incarnation of someone I admire once said, “I love a little shop.” In these days of internet-shopping-from-your-sofa-while-tweeting-and-watching-TV, it’s a refreshing change, I think, to occasionally go outside and have a poke about in an actual shop. Perhaps not even looking for anything in particular, but just giving yourself the chance to spot something you might fancy. Something you never knew you wanted.

Withnail Books aims to be this kind of “little shop,” and I’m always very pleased when customers give me unbidden comments along the lines of “what a great shop,” or, “you have an interesting selection of books.”

I’d like to thank all the people who have helped Withnail Books over the last ten years: customers of course, but also friends, family (including my Brunswick Yard family) and supporters on t’internet; too many to list individually, but you know who you are. Thank you all.

Special thanks though to my wonderful wife Sharon Gosling, who has been there from the very beginning, when “Withnail Books” was just words stamped on a leather key fob she’d bought to inspire me, and which is still in my pocket as I type this…

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