As an English student and avid reader myself, books form a substantial part of my life and I consequently feel it is my duty to get worked up about the rise of the electronic reader, decline of literature knowledge in society and other such book-y matters. It came as a pleasant surprise then, to discover a bookshop like no other here in the heart of Exeter.
Sitting proudly amongst other suitably Tudor-esque architecture and quirky shops, just off the high street on West Street, lays ‘Book Cycle’. The shop itself would not look out of place in Diagon Alley, and what with J.K. Rowling having attended Exeter; it is a distinct possibility that the shop may have inspired ‘Flourish and Botts’ (that’s my theory anyway). Think low ceilings, musty air and a thin layer of dust on the shelves. It may not be the biggest shop in the world but efficiency is Book Cycle’s game and my, do they pack a lot in. Spanning two floors, they have books for every category you could possibly imagine. Upstairs lies a sofa and vintage lamp, with fabulous views across the street.
They are a registered charity who endeavour to grant everybody fair access to books, through a ‘no fee’ system. The shop is volunteer run and relies completely on donations. Anybody can take up to three books at a time to borrow/keep, and, in return a donation (of any size) can be offered up. How cool is that?! ‘Book Cycle’ are also keen on planting trees and they have their own mini seed bank halfway up the stairwell. The logic is that more trees = more books and so half the profits goes into developing forests in Britain and the other half goes to underprivileged countries.
So, next time you heave a sigh because it feels like you need to take out a mortgage just to afford your reading list for one term (a pain I bear regularly), fear not. Try searching for the odd book in Book Cycle; you’ll have more money in your pocket and can walk home content, knowing you have done your bit helping out others!
I know what you’re thinking…this place seems too good to be true? Free books, cute surroundings and charitable work all in one place! Well it certainly isn’t; don’t take my word for it though, go and explore one of Exeter’s hidden gems and you might just be surprised at what you find!
words and photos by Sinead Buckingham, Exeter Correspondent