Charming, isn’t it?
A canal boat filled with words. Literary greats out on a cruise together.
In fact charming does not do justice to the Book Barge or its owner Sarah. Having owned the Book Barge for almost two years, Sarah was out on a journey that took her through the “waterways of Britain” over six months when I visit this unique bookshop sometime in 2011.
What was it all about?
It was – and still is – about being an independent bookseller, about having a novelty product and making the most of it, about having an ingenious plan and actually going for it.
It was also about commitment, considering Sarah learnt how to steer the boat in only a month and was off for six months.
What’s the big deal?
Glad you asked.
For the six month journey all that The Book Barge relied on was “bartering stock for food, accommodation and other necessities along the way”. I told you it was ingenious. It’s almost a back-to-the-basics kind of a lifestyle that I wish I could adopt. Obviously it ran like a normal bookshop as well wherever it was moored.
I didn’t know about the The Book Barge in advance and chanced upon it while taking a leisurely stroll along the canals of Birmingham. Upon entering, I found it to be a delightful world filled with small knick-knacks like antique typewriters, a sewing machine, some old suitcases, and those Penguin deck chairs that we all wish to own one day, with of course a selective yet commendable collection of books.
Gently swaying while browsing a book collection comprising of “classic, contemporary, and children’s fiction” is an altogether difference experience. Not only was I able to buy a few books, but also managed to exchange some that I had from my personal collection at the time.
Now, don’t assume that you’ll get a ride on the boat – unless of course the proprietor lets you – but you can sit down and have a read over a free cup of tea without any hassles.
I visited The Book Barge in Birmingham in 2011 and since then it’s owner has gone ahead and written about her experience in a book titled The Bookshop That Floated Away. I haven’t read it yet, or bought it for that matter, but if you’re around Staffordshire anytime soon, keep a lookout for this one-of-a-kind bookshop.