Mostly Books, Abingdon – Best for customer service
Like the other indie bookshops in this list, Mostly Books has had a tough 18 months, but the Muddy Awards 2021 winner has emerged triumphant. After lockdown struck, it took its entire stock online and while the shop closed, it managed same day delivery for local orders by nipping round town by bike (in yer face Amazon).
Blackwell’s, Broad Street, Oxford – Best for choice
Blackwell’s is one of the largest bookshops in the world – in The Norrington Room alone, in the basement, there is 3.5km of bookshelves! It’s a vast academic bookshop in addition to fiction and non-fiction titles, and Blackwell’s has a specialist art, graphic novel and manga store on Broad Street, plus another shop in Westgate.
The Book House, Thame – Best for kids
You can’t miss this glorious indie hangout on the High Street – just keep an eye out for the giant puffin! As a children’s book specialist The Book House is an excellent resource for littlies (they stock everything from baby’s first books right up to young adult fiction), but there’s plenty here for grown-ups too, and it’s especially strong on cookbooks (as well as gorgeous cards and gifts). After something they don’t stock? They can get your request on the shelves in 24 hours – talk about customer service.
The Marlow Bookshop, Marlow – Best for events
Previous Muddy Awards winner of Best Bookshop 2019 (and finalist in 2021), The Marlow Bookshop is a local institution and a fab place to while away an hour or two. The shop boasts an excellent events roster with monthly author talks and regular signing events. There’s plenty of fiction and non-fiction and an inspiring seasonal display for kids.
The Bell Bookshop, Henley – Best for gifts
Perched near the river, The Bell is home to a whopping 20,000 books to browse through, covering everything from cookbooks to classics to kids’ fiction. While you’re in town, pop in to pick up a new read or, if you’re in need, a literary gift for a friend. The Bell stocks a range of cute cards and paper as well as beautifully-designed book collections (perfect for avid collectors), mugs, totes and more. Best of all, they have a free wrapping service for up to two items. Genius.
Gerrards Cross Bookshop, Gerrards Cross – Best for non-fiction
We’re a big fan of Chiltern Bookshops (it has two branches – GX and Chorleywood), and it looks like we’re not the only ones! The events roster is often packed with signings and events, and if you’re after a bibliography, cookbook or other non-fiction, Gerrards Cross Bookshop should be your first stop in Bucks. It has an impressive range of signed books available (great for gifts!), and works with local schools on sourcing textbooks, arranging author meet-ups and making recommendations for young readers.
The Wallingford Bookshop, Wallingford – Best for recommendations
This bijou bookshop tucked away in Wallingford’s St Martin’s Street may not be as big as some of the others on this list – it has around 6,000 books available on the shop floor – but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in expert knowledge. Ask any of the friendly staff for a recommendation (for you or someone else), and they’ll be more than happy to offer up several options. After a book you can’t remember the name of? Chances are they’ll know it and be able to get it for you in 24 hours.
Jaffé and Neale, Chipping Norton – Best for relaxing
The only thing better than buying a new book? Starting it in a cozy cafe with a massive mug of coffee and a slice of cake on the go. Therein lies the appeal of quaint indie bookshop (and 2021 Muddy Awards finalist) Jaffé and Neale, which has an al fresco seating area as well as an upstairs lounge for you to sink back and enjoy your newest purchase in.
The Old Hall Bookshop, Brackley – Best for second-hand
It may technically be in Northants, but just a stone’s throw from the Bucks and Oxon borders, the glorious Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley is well worth a trip. As well as a children’s room for little ones, a section on Northamptonshire history (if that’s your bag) and plenty of new releases, this bookshop specialises in rare and secondhand books. Need to track down an elusive title? These are the experts to contact.
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