I love a good used bookshop, I mean, who doesn’t? I’ll tell you who, people who want to see the world burn, that’s who.
Camilla’s used bookshop in Eastbourne, UK, has one simple word painted above its door.
That word is “Books.”
“Of course it says ‘Books,’ what else would it say?” You think to yourself as you casually stroll down the street, your money practically jumping out of your pockets at the thought of walking near a used bookshop.
Then you get closer, and you see. You see the books lined up against the wall outside, the books spilling out onto the sidewalk like the innards of the weirdest and also coolest mythical creature ever imagined. This isn’t any used bookshop, it’s the mother of all used bookshops.
You see them through the open doorway, stacked to the ceiling, waving at you with their little paper arms, daring you to enter and not have your head spin around on a swivel like you’re auditioning for a remake of The Exorcist.
This is when you have to make a choice, keep walking (yeah, right!) or tighten your belt and wade in.
This is also when you realize that the word “Books” should be replaced with “All of the Books in Southeast England.”
In fact, you could spend hours browsing their books before you even step through their door. This is a used bookshop that for some reason feels like home, not that my parents made us sleep on twelve foot high piles of books. It just feels like I can walk in there and not worry about anything, that I could sit on the stairs like I did at my home when I was young and turn everything off and just read for a little while.
Built in 1900, the building officially became a bookshop in 1947. Today, the two proprietors, Camilla and Stuart, claim to have over one million books in stock, and who am I to argue with them?
In fact, I’ll bet the first thought that probably enters most people’s brains as they walk in is, “They must have at least a million books in here.”
The first time I was there, I was looking for books by Fritz Leiber, the sci-fi/horror paperback genius.
“Sci-Fi’s on the stairs,” Stuart told me, pointing behind him. I walked up and found them, piles and piles of fantasy, sci-fi and horror. They were regulated primarily to the stairs, but blended onto another set of stairs that gradually turned into graphic novels & some manga.
I didn’t find any Leiber that day, probably because I didn’t try hard enough. Camilla’s is a DIY kind of bookshop, you’ve got to get down on your knees and dig like you’re Indiana Jones with the Nazis hot on your heels.
That said, everyone that works there is extremely helpful, and they know their stock. How, I have absolutely no clue, but they do. The system works for them and it’s their shop so who am I to question it.
Going into Camilla’s is like bungee jumping: you should just close your eyes and do it, and after you’ve done it once, you’ll keep coming back for more.
In total, there are three levels to the shop. Upstairs with the military books is a birdcage that contains Archie the parrot. Archie works part time, Tuesday & Friday only.
Science fiction, fantasy and horror aren’t the only thing they have, though. They actually claim to specialize in books on Transportation.
I’ll take their word for it, but I do know I found an entire wall of cookbooks from around the world, books on esoteric religions and practices, music, UFOs, and witchcraft. There are rare first editions, cheesy detective paperbacks, books in plastic bags that are nailed to wall, it is truly a unique experience wandering in there.
So there it is, I’m admitting it, I love used bookshops, and if you do too, let me know some of your favourites!