WINNER: Bridge Street Books, Wicklow
Who would run a bookshop these days, what with Amazon ruling the world and print readers dwindling? And then a bookshop in Wicklow, a town that got hammered by the recession, which saw many of its shops close for good?
Off the main street, however, there's one of the country's most popular shops. The light and dark blue colours of Bridge Street Books have turned it into a landmark premises that is "keeping a love of books alive in Wicklow town", as one reader puts it.
Hilary Hamilton opened the bookshop 15 years ago and when her daughter Joanna returned from a spell of travelling eight years ago, she started working there too, first as a stop gap, and now as a partner. Readers and judges love the shop's friendly staff and the over and above service.
"It's the kind of shop you could browse in for hours, find books you didn't know you were looking for, get recommendations for books you might like, discover new authors, chat to and compare notes about books with other customers and staff, and even make new friends," is how one of the many readers who nominated it describes it.
"Children sit on the floor engrossed in the tremendous selection available to them and in the unlikely event you are unable to find what you are looking for one of the owners, Joanna, will immediately order it."
"On a personal note, when Joanna saw how interested my son was in the Cressida Cowell novels she wrote to her, and he was delighted to receive a letter from the author."
Brendan Courtney praised the atmosphere. "A shop that launches a new Harry Potter with a party at midnight is special."
The shop also has a resident fairy who lives behind a fairy door (made by The Irish Fairy Door Company and available to buy for €24.99). Children interact with it by leaving presents, usually decorations or flowers. The fairy returns the compliment by making reading recommendations to the kids. “In a world of iPads, iPhones and Xboxes, this place is a haven,” is how another reader describes the shop.
Bridge Street Books, Wicklow, Co Wicklow;
tel: 0404 62240; bridgestreetbooks.ie
Hodges Figgis, 56-58 Dawson St; Dublin 2;
Tel: 01-677 4754
Hodges Figgis exemplifies what a large city bookshop should be. "It is a leader in book selling and the staff are knowledgeable people who value their reading community and love the written word," writes one reader. "It is an absolute simple pleasure to browse and chat with its story-telling staff."