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Battle Of The Bookshops: E J Morten in Manchester

8th Oct 2010

Battle Of The Bookshops: E J Morten in Manchester

This is the prettiest bookshop ever. Ok so when I visited it was a glorious Saturday, I was in a sickeningly good mood, had spent an hour drinking coffee and reading the paper in the sunshine and everything looked damn pretty, but I digress. Tucked away off the main road, E J Morten Booksellers is housed in a charming old terrace (the oldest in Didsbury village in fact!) with tables of books set up just off the cobbles. Didsbury in South Manchester is blessed with a fairly moneyed and lit-aware population, making it perfect for an independent bookshop that is unable to compete with big chain buy-one-get-twelve-free offers and upholds strong community values. There’s no snobbishness with E J Morten Booksellers, it survives because it’s an excellent bookshop and because it has earned a loyal customer base.

Established in 1958, it is one of the North West’s oldest independent book stores and I’m told people travel from far and wide to visit. Trading started in the front of house number 4, expanded to the next house and now takes up the whole row and a large backroom extension. And how they fill the space well! There’s a great children’s section in a separate alcove, fiction, drama, history, and lifestyle – everything you need for a good browse, and a selection varied enough to please both passers by and determined book hunters. I got chatting to David, who has worked there for 20+ years because he “just loves it”. Usually, I like to be left well alone when scanning the shelves and rummaging through bargain boxes, but I ended up chatting away about books, travel and the local area. It felt like I had just popped round to someone’s house to borrow – well, buy – a couple of books. Lovely.

I had promised myself I wouldn’t buy anything, that I was saving pennies for a wedding reception later that day, but you know how it is… I bought Thor Heyerdahl’s The Kon-Tiki Expedition (a sucker for adventure and exploration even at 27 years old, and more than happy at finding this rare paperback) and got a nifty Alan Bennett bookmark tucked inside.

E J Morten Booksellers, Warburton Street, Didsbury, M20 6WA

Post and image by Alex Herod