Hay is a small village on the Welsh borders (Powys) near
Hereford. Essentially, it is a book-lovers paradise. There are over 30
second-hand and new book shops, all shoe-horned into a small Welsh border
village. There must be over one million books there. I spent a couple of
days there, with my wife, during the Sunday Times Hay Festival, however we
did not attend any of the events. Our presence there was purely mercenary
- books, books, books! Overnight accommodation was provided in an
excellent B & B appropriately called "Rest for the Tired",
located on the main street over a bookshop specialising in Golfing Books.
But you ask, what is the relevance of this travelogue? What's in it for
me as a Science Fiction / Fantasy or even Horror reader / collector?
Plenty. If you want to see a broad range of the genres, particularly out
of print volumes, then get down there. What follows are a few of the
highlights (I achieved burn-out in less than 24 hours). By the way, please
take my estimates with a pinch of salt - use them as a guide to the
relative sizes of the 'collections'. I didn't do any counting. Neither
have I included children's science fiction in what follows, which is an
entirely separate can of worms. Prices were variable as you would expect,
but there were a lot of very reasonably priced bargains.
Specialists in SF, Fantasy, Trek, Who etc. The shop is one room in a
house. Stock consisted of about 3000 books.
Richard's Booth's Bookshop
Easily the largest shop in the village, it claims 400,000+ titles. SF
& related genres were in two small rooms at the back. Lots. I estimate
10,000+ volumes, including a lot of 1950 / 60s pulp magazines.
Hay Cinema Bookshop
An old converted cinema, this houses over 200,000 books. The SF shelves
contained about 4000 books.
Nice collection floor to ceiling in a broom-cupboard? Around 3000 SF
Bag of Books (Bookends)
New, remaindered paperbacks. Every book was a £1. There were about 500 SF
Five floors of books, over 100,000 books in stock, of which about 1000
A few additional teasers (I didn't get to them, but the descriptions
are enough to make your mouth water) :
Rare Comics & Cards
Specialists in comics, annuals, etc.
The Strand Bookshop & Café
30,000 books, specialising in Natural History, collectable paperback
fiction and Sci-Fi & Horror.
The New Strand
30,000 books, specialities include Sci-Fi and Horror.
Oh, and a big apology to all the bookshops I didn't get to - another
trip is planned, as soon as I can afford it! If you want to find out more,
a good place to start is the web site
So, did I buy any books? Of course I did. Some of my SF bargains
- Hardback copy of the latest edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia
- Frank Herbert - Eye, paperback collection of short stories, including
his comments on the making of the film Dune for £2.50
- Mervyn Peake - Peake's Progress, a large Penguin paperback of selected
works and drawings for £3.00
- Greg Egan - a couple of new paperbacks for a £1 each
And did I cross anything off my Wants List? Some yes, in particular the
SF Encyclopaedia. But I don't think the way to use Hay is with a list.
Rather it is for the ultimate browse. You may not find that missing 4th
volume of the series you are looking for (use a web-site for this?), but
you will find the 3rd volume of a series that you didn't know existed. Go
on, treat yourself soon. You know it makes sense!