Troutmark Books, Cardiffposted on 06 Apr 2016
Troutmark Books, Cardiff
It's been the best part of 40 years since I last visited Cardiff and so it felt like visiting a city I'd never actually been to before. I was prepared for slim pickings in respect of bookshops because any search on the internet will tell you there's only really one substantial second hand dealer and a second less promising market stall. On top of that it rained. Boy, did it rain.
Fortunately, Cardiff has some really fascinating and delightful shopping arcades - several of them dating back to a more illustrious Victorian or Edwardian past that meant it was possible to stay undercover for at least some of the time. One of these arcades - The Castle Arcade - houses an excellent, slightly Bohemian cafe and is also the home of Troutmark Books. It may be the only secondhand book shop in Cardiff but it's a belter and more than made up for getting utterly drenched finding it.
One of the advantages of shops based in arcades like this is that you have a fabulous frontage to work with. Looking in as you arrive is a real treat because the shelves behind go floor to ceiling and you get the distinct impression that you might come across something very special. They have a website but it's pretty perfunctory and I rather like that because it means that the stuff in the shop is the main event. There are rows and rows of stuff and all the usual categories are catered for but I was really delighted to see that real care had been taken with the stock - much of it is covered in protective wrapping and is kept in good order on the shelves. There are no haphazard piles of junk rotting away in piles on the floor or unpacked and unclassified stock getting in the way of the browsing.
The collectible first editions are tucked away on shelves behind the desk and that's understandable because there is some really great stuff there and I can't imagine how irritating it would be for that stuff to be pilfered. I spent a little over £100 on books I just couldn't leave behind - a mix of modern first editions and children's books - but I could have just opened my wallet and emptied it on the counter because there was so much I wanted. Ultimately, there were far too many gems and I couldn't really justify shelling out any more money at that point.
I can't say I have been inspired to rush back to Cardiff but if anything is likely to entice me back it would be Troutmark Books.