Independents’ view of 2013’s best books

Indie bookshops from all over the UK use their expertise and ‘handsellers” passion to choose their books of the year

Kirkdale Bookshop, London

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey has proved very popular with staff and customers recently. Equal parts entertaining and inspiring, it is full of fascinating insights into the idiosyncratic routines of history’s greatest minds.  For all aspiring writers, here’s a chance to read how these famous people organised their time. Two hours a day could be enough to produce a masterpiece!

Kirkdale Bookshop, 272 Kirkdale, Sydenham, London SE26 4RS (020 8778 4701)

Gay’s the Word, London

Maggie & Me by Damian Barr was a complete delight – one of the most affecting and engaging books I’ve read in some time. Barr’s account of his tough childhood is beautifully written, wise, funny and deeply moving without a trace of self-pity. People who’ve read it are coming back to buy extra copies for friends.

Gay’s The Word, 66 Marchmont Street, LONDON WC1N 1AB (020 7278 7654)

Gullivers Bookshop, Wimbourne

Once in a while a book comes along that stays with you – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is that book. Prof Don Tillman is an awkward man with a severe lack of social skills, who nevertheless embarks on a project to find a wife.  It soon becomes clear that Don is quite high on the Aspergers scale – and this is handled so wonderfully that a teacher customer of ours has said that she thinks all teachers should be made to read it to give them a better understanding of students with this syndrome. Another customer has simply told us that is the only book that has made her laugh out loud all year.

Gullivers Bookshop, 47 High St, Wimborne Minster, Dorset @gulliversbks 

The Nairn Bookshop, Nairn

Who can resist an adorable puffin? We loved Harris the Hero, set in Scotland on the Isle of May, the first time we saw it. Lynne Rickards’ rollicking rhymes are matched by the verve and character of Gabby Grant’s lovable illustrations. We are based in a seaside town and knew this title would prove very popular.
The Nairn Bookshop, 97 High Street, Nairn IV12 4DB (01667 455528)

The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Tetbury

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain is not an obvious sort of book.   On the most basic level, it tells the journey of President François Mitterrand’s hat after it is stolen and how it changes lives as it moves from person to person. It captures the same romantic, whimsical, nostalgic feeling that the film Amélie did so well – partly because it is set in the 1980s, so before computers, mobile phones and social networking, partly as the plot is also driven by accident and chance. One of the pleasures of the book is that it is a personal, special discovery.   You feel that you have stumbled across a book that nobody else knows about.   Your relationship with the book is the same as that of the various characters to the hat itself – you are blessed to have come across it.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop,21 Church Street, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8JG (01666 500221)

The Bookcase, Lowdham

The West Yorkshire Moors by Chris Goddard would be our book of the year even if it wasn’t a bestseller with our customers. A genuine labour of love, the book contains over 150 pages of exquisite hand-drawn guides to the Pennine moors, from Holmfirth to Ilkley. A screen could never do justice to it; this is a book that has to be held in the hand to be appreciated. Anyone with the slightest interest in walking and exploring the tops wants it as soon as they see a copy.

The Bookcase, 50 Main St, Lowdham, Nottinghamshire NG14 7BE (0115 9664143)

One Tree Books, Petersfield, Hampshire

Wonder by RJ Palacio is the story of Auggie Pullman – normal on the inside, but to the outside world a boy with a severe facial deformity that sets him apart. Home-schooled all his life by his loving, fiercely protective parents, Auggie is about to start school for the first time. How he overcomes the challenges facing him keeps the reader gripped to the end of the book.

One Tree Books, 7 Lavant Street, Petersfield, Hants GU32 3EL.

The Wallingford Bookshop, Wallingford, Oxon

A difficult decision, but my book of the year is Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. It is fantastic and wacky, with absolutely brilliant illustrations. Oliver’s parents are explorers, and when they go missing he must undertake a crazy adventure to find them along with a grumpy albatross, a short-sighted mermaid and a friendly island called Cliff.

The Wallingford Bookshop, 9A St Martin’s St, Town Centre, Wallingford OX10 0AL (01491 834383)

Linghams Bookshop, the Wirral

The book we’re recommending to all our reading groups is Jim Crace’s Harvest. Highly original, written in prose so beautiful you could almost call it blank verse, it captures the stark reality of subsistence living in a medieval English village as the peasants are displaced from their land by sheep farming. One enthusiastic customer described how he had enjoyed the description of the shrill ploughman’s whistle which would “break up stones'”. In our view it should have won the Man Booker.

Linghams Bookshop, 248 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Wirral CH60 7SG (0151 342 7290) © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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