14 August 2017

Rummaging for books
on Athens and finding
Limerick’s tiny bookshop

Quay Books claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was looking for a few books in Limerick at the weekend. I needed two new guidebooks for my visit to Athens later this week, and I wanted a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland to thank Anthony Sheehy for a recent guided tour of the Desmond Castle in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

There is nothing as frustrating as taking an out-of-date guidebook with you on a city visit. Restaurants change, new museums open or galleries close, coffee shops spring up, some areas loose or gain their charm.

I have visited and worked in Athens many times from the 1980s on, but since I was last there my guidebooks are totally out-of-date. The economic and political climate has changed completely, and while I have kept up-to-date with political and social changes in Greece, it is many years since I worked in Athens as a journalist.

The refugee crisis has changed many aspects of life in the Greek capital, and I am also hoping to see at first-hand the work on the street among refugees and migrants by Canon Malcolm Bradshaw and the parishioners of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in the centre of Athens.

In the years since my last visit to Athens, the New Acropolis Museum opened in 2006 – it is hard to believe that it is that long since I have been in Athens – and I have booked a guided visit to the Museum and to the Acropolis on Saturday afternoon [19 August 2017].

But I still need up-to-date guidebooks to Athens. I am sure many of the places I was once familiar with have changed, and I need to find my way around, recovering my familiarity with a city that I once knew intimately.

After lunch in Olio e Farina in Little Catherine Street, two of us took some time browsing and rummaging in a number of bookshops in Limerick before I found two guidebooks I think I am going to be happy with for my short return visit to Athens later this week.

Happy with my acquisitions, I headed off for a stroll through the older parts of Limerick and then visited the Hunt Museum and the current exhibition of works by Jack Yeats and Paul Henry.

A joy for book browsers and rummagers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

I was on my way back towards O’Connell when by accident I stumbled across Quay Books in the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre.

Although I regularly catch buses on Arthur’s Quay, I am not one for shopping centres, and I had given this shopping centre a miss until now.

Quay Books is just inside the Patrick Street entrance to the shopping centre, in a kiosk opposite the Tesco checkout points. It may be a kiosk rather than a full-size shop, but it justly claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore.’

They source their books from suppliers in the UK and the US, and boast: ‘Nearly all of the time you will find that on price we beat online suppliers, including Amazon, for the books we stock.’

Quay Books is one of the smallest independent bookstores and is every book lover’s dream. In a tiny space, the books are stacked high on shelves and on one another around and inside the kiosk, from poetry and classics to contemporary novels, from nonfiction to out-of-print biographies.

The tight space makes rummaging and browsing all the more fun because every book browser’s dream is to find something you want and need to read but never knew about until you stumble across it.

And if you cannot find it or cannot see it, Quay Books invite customers to call them to see if can help.

In one small space, between the piled-high books, a notice quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

In vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, looking for some spark, however tiny, to fan a flame, to revive all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins.

And then, added beneath, are the proprietor’s own inviting words:

Dear Reader

Please feel free to rummage among our books. We hope you will find something you will enjoy, even make the blood course through your veins!

Don’t worry if you make the books untidy. Just enjoy rummaging!

Another similar notice tells the book browser:

The difference between who you are now and who you are five years from now, comes down to the people you meet and the books you read.

Quay Books is in Kiosk 1 on the Ground Floor at the Patrick Street entrance to the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre, and is open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.


No comments: