Hay-On-Wye and the quest for prize winning books

Wooden planter that is placed on grass next to pavement slabs. There are small green plants coming through in the soil of the planter, in a row. The planter is rectangular. The planter has a sign attached above it. The first part is an illustration with an array of colourful book spines, one them says HAY, then KING, then ANTIQUES, then BOOKS, then the second to last book on the right says RIVER WYE. Above this is another sign with a black border which says in black - WORLD'S FIRST BOOK TOWN

Hay-on-Wye, the world’s first book town is a book lovers dream. Originally filled to the brim with a whopping 54 book shops, the number has now dwindled down to 26, with only about 15 currently open. There’s even a bookshop on the grounds of the castle!

I was excited to finally explore Hay last weekend, even if it turned out to be on one of the wettest days of the year (this actually worked out in our favour as it wasn’t very busy). We spent the day wondering around the many book stores which included an alleyway filled with books and a whole store dedicated to crime and thrillers. For any book fanatics, it really is the most magical place.

When getting anything second hand I have to know what I am looking for, otherwise I get overwhelmed by everything jumbled together in one big mess. Occasionally I will come across a great find that I wasn’t looking for, but this is rare. Before heading off to Hay I decided to try and get the books I have yet to read from the winners of Women’s Prize for Fiction.

This year saw the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. To mark the occasion they have a #readingwomen challenge, where you read all the previous winners. I’ve been doing the challenge at my own pace and have currently read 17 out of the 25 winning novels. With 8 left to read and 1 already in my possession, Hay was the place to find the final 7.

The Addyman Annexe

Shop front of The Addyman Annexe in Hay-on-Wye

My first find was The Road Home by Rose Tremain (2008 winner) which I found with relative ease. All the books were perfectly organised alphabetically which is a contrast to their sister store (Addyman Books) where the books are colour coordinated – great for photos but not so great if you are looking for a specific book.

Hay-on-Wye Books

Holding up copy of The Glorious Heresies in Hay on Wye Books

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInery (2016) was the book that I didn’t think I would be able to find. It’s the most recent one I haven’t read and hasn’t been as popular as the succeeding winners. However, it still took me a while to find in Hay-on-Wye Books (no website) as they only put the books under the first letter of the authors surname; after that any organisation goes out the window. In the end I was able to find the book by searching for the title.

Richard Booth’s Bookshop

Literature section on the second floor in Richard Booth

Decked out like a library, this was my favourite bookshop in Hay and the one where I found the most books. Richard Booth’s (named after the founder of Hay’s transformation into a book capital) probably had the most extensive fiction section of all the book stores we went to – the basement alone has aisles with horror, romance and crime fiction. In Booth’s Books I found The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville (2001) and Property by Valerie Martin (2003). Sadly, due to Coronavirus the cafe and cinema are currently closed but I could still easily have spent hours happily curled up in a corner reading.

Green Ink Booksellers

My final find was in Green Ink, one of the newest second hand bookshop’s facing the town square. It’s a twee shop which has a modern, cosy feel; there were only about 4 shelves for fiction but I did seek out May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes (2013).

I was able to find 5 out of the 7 books on my Women’s Prize for Fiction to read list and for under £20.00. All in all an extremely successful haul!

Have you been to Hay-on-Wye? What are your favourite book shops? Are you doing any reading challenges? Tell me all in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. This was a really interesting read, Imi. Your comment about being overwhelmed in a second hand book shop resonated – I nearly always come out with nothing for that very reason! I’m adding Hay to my visit list x

    Liked by 1 person

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