I headed for Waterstone’s via the market, past the lady selling fruit and veg who my Dad used to call, “The Shouty Girl” (though she’s a lot quieter these days so maybe she’s had Health & Safety out). I was cutting through St. Mary’s Chare, when I collided with a gentleman who’d lost his balance emerging from a shop doorway.
“They’re far too specialised in there, far too specialised. For me anyway, just too specialised.”
“Yes but who them?”
“Them! Them in there.”
He jerked his head at the shop he’d just fallen out of. We were standing outside an independent book sellers, Cogito Books. I’ve been going to Hexham for years, but I haven’t seen the shop before, probably because I rarely go into St. Mary’s Chare. It was necessary for me to investigate then, because I wouldn’t be able to eat my dinner if I didn’t first of all satisfy my curiosity to know what it was about the shop that was so damn specialised, and, more importantly, to get a look at them.
What a place! The premises aren’t big but they boast a sizeable stock. When I was little, I used to wonder what it would be like to shrink down in height, then climb inside my kaleidoscope and twirl about. I came close to finding out here in Cogito Books. The shop is a burst of psychedelic glory, book spines sweep every inch of wall space in Technicolor. I tried to see what the gentleman had meant by ‘specialised.’ Most of the classics are here, certainly; also a comprehensive travel section, and several academic works, but plenty too for people like me, who take their reading pleasures from the lower rungs of the intellectual ladder. There are the crime thrillers by popular authors such as Robert Galbraith (J.K.Rowling) Anne Cleeves, and Jeffrey Archer; the humorous novels of Nick Hornby, various Sunday Times best sellers – lots for everyone in fact, including a well stocked children’s section.
I was asked a couple of times if I needed any help (I didn’t) then I was left alone to quietly get on with working out how best to part with my birthday cash. When I did want advice, it was immediately forthcoming and unbiased. I asked one of the ladies working there if she’d read “What a Carve Up!” by Jonathan Coe. I had it in my hand and I was pondering between it, and a tome about a walk in Paris. The opinion delivered was an honest one, definitely not aimed at making a sale. She told me she’d enjoyed the book, but only to a degree and the ending had been disappointing. I rested in one of the comfy sofas and leafed through the pages some more, before deciding to buy it anyway. I knew I’d been given the verdict on the book in good faith, and if I find I don’t concur, then I’ll know for the next time. And there will be a next time, and a next, and a next, and another one after that. In fact if anyone is struggling over what to buy me for Christmas, I would like a Cogito reading treat please. This is an afternoon in the shop with a member of staff, going through the books I’ve enjoyed, while we consume tea and biscuits. They will then put their considerable knowledge into choosing a bespoke list of new titles for my delectation. It sounds perfect; in fact the only thing more perfect would be to have a job in there with them.
The other books I chose were, The Paying Guest, by Sarah Waters, and Please Mr Postman by Alan Johnson, and by the way I found out what it is about Cogito Books that is so specialised. The customer service.
I wanted to ask more questions about the shop itself, but it was pretty busy so I’ll leave it until another time. I did find our that it’s family owned however, and it has existed in Hexham for fourteen years. For details find them here. Cogito Books