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The Floating Bookshop

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.


  • Maniparna Sengupta Majumder
    Posted 21 May, 16 at 4:04 AM

    Sitting down there while sipping tea, sounds just wonderful! Undoubtedly, an innovative idea to have a floating bookshop… 🙂

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 3 August, 16 at 6:20 PM

      Definitely, and because the boat sways gently even when it is moored… bliss!

  • Archie
    Posted 24 May, 16 at 5:57 PM

    What an amazing idea! 🙂

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 3 August, 16 at 6:19 PM

      Isn’t it now… i’m now hoping that more people start opening bookshops in quaint places after this.

  • Mixed Bag (@m_ixedbag)
    Posted 26 May, 16 at 4:28 AM

    It’s so strange! I just finished reading a book called ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ by Nina George. Don’t know which came first but her protagonist is the owner of a floating bookshop in Paris called ‘The Book Barge’. Go figure!

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 3 August, 16 at 6:16 PM

      Interesting. I have had this book in my TBR list but didn’t know the premise of the story. Either way, love the idea of unique bookshops.

  • Lata Sunil
    Posted 11 August, 16 at 12:23 PM

    Its so beautiful. Imagine living in there.

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 11 August, 16 at 12:58 PM

      Yeah, would make for a wonderful living.

  • Upeksha
    Posted 29 September, 16 at 2:36 AM

    Great post. I love the Canal Bookshop (although I’ve not been there recently). Must visit again.

  • TravelingMel
    Posted 28 January, 17 at 3:09 PM

    A floating bookstore? I love it (and free tea!). We will be in England next month, although I don’t know if we will be near this. I just love when people have a quirky idea and follow through on it. And how great that you stumbled upon it!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 28 January, 17 at 4:07 PM

      I saw them in Birmingham but that’s not where they normally moor. Have a look on their webpage as their main “stop” is someplace else. But lots of wonderful bookshops in UK all around.

  • promisemaxwell
    Posted 28 January, 17 at 8:58 PM

    Interesting article and clearly explained. I love the idea of combining antique typewriters, a sewing machine etc to places like this they give it a unique appearance. I’ll be sure to visit The Book Barge anytime in Birmingham.

  • Abigail
    Posted 29 January, 17 at 11:11 AM

    How interesting! I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a floating market, but a floating bookshop is definitely one to check out. I love reading and collecting books so I’m excited to check this out.

  • La Vida Viva Travel
    Posted 29 January, 17 at 2:10 PM

    Ooooh how interesting and very charming indeed. Such a clever idea and I’m sure it attracts book lovers from all over!

  • worldinsidemypocket
    Posted 29 January, 17 at 2:47 PM

    Oh wow this is absolutely adorable! I could definitely get on board with this lifestyle, a little boat and a million books- yes please!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 29 January, 17 at 2:59 PM

      You’ll need a big boat for a million books but totally onboard with you on the idea. 😀

  • Ivy
    Posted 30 January, 17 at 5:15 AM

    Aw this is such a cute place to have a bookshop! I don’t know about the swaying though, my husband is super to sea sickness so this probably doesn’t bode well for him haha. I suppose he can wait outside while I sip on some tea while browsing for good reads 🙂

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 30 January, 17 at 7:11 PM

      Ha! Don’t worry about that. Being a canal the swaying isn’t that much and only happens if a boat goes by. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Cheers

  • Janine Good
    Posted 30 January, 17 at 7:35 AM

    What a neat concept! I saw the book barge and it is a unique way to find some great reads. I hope that they continue as the novelty is quite intriguing in spite of the growing popularity of the Kindle.

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 30 January, 17 at 7:12 PM

      I’m a big advocate of Independent bookshops so I try and support them as much as possible. So yeah… really hope that they all survive.

  • lydia@lifeuntraveled
    Posted 30 January, 17 at 9:06 PM

    I absolutely love this concept! This kind of creativity and ingenuity gets my blood pumping – kudos to Sarah for thinking of this brilliant idea and making her dream come true! I would definitely go to this charming floating book shop if ever I make it to Staffordshire – thanks for sharing!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 30 January, 17 at 9:55 PM

      I’m the same, love the novelty and while I love all independent bookshops, the quirky ones are even better

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