Monday, December 19, 2011

In Many Bookshops with Pastor Charmley: The Christian Bookshop, Ossett

The great thing about independent bookshops is that they are all different; they have their quirks and their eccentricities. I come from a literary family (my father and my twin brother are both writers), and early learned the joy of the independent bookshop. Bookshops have their own characters and specialisms - no one person can specialise in all things, and no one bookshop can either. Quite often bookshops reflect their own background, just as people do; the former Anglican retains the Anglican stamp still, no matter how he may try to eradicate it. As for the man who is proud of his creed, how much more will he show it in his character?

It is so with this Strict Baptist bookshop that stands beside a Strict Baptist Chapel in the splendid Yorkshire town of Ossett. Between Huddersfield and Wakefield, Ossett proudly asserts its own character with its grand town hall and the soaring spire of its Parish Church, which has been mistaken for Wakefield Cathedral (by me!). Yet Ossett's greatest gem to me is the Christian Bookshop.

One enters a smart, light, modern shop on the ground floor, but if the shop is modern in appearance its theology is the good old theology of the Puritans and Reformers; not modern, and yet ever new. There is, I think, nothing worthless in this shop, it is all good stuff. It's the sort of bookshop I like, a bookshop that sells good books! The character of the stock is excellent, chosen with discernment and with more concern over what ought to be read than what the generality of Evangelicals are reading. What is lamentable is that so few Christian bookshops look like this.

Upstairs, however, is what I like best of all, a veritable Aladdin's cave of second-hand books; not cheap paperbacks (though there are such), but good old, solid books. There are many, many biographies in particular, many Strict Baptists, good old men who laboured in obscurity. The books reflect what a good Strict Baptist minister might have in his study. A man with a healthy bank balance might spend hundreds here, and any lover of good books will spend hours enjoying this excellent shop. Well done, say I, well done; there is at least here a Christian bookshop worthy of the name.

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