The Book Hive is a place that celebrates the beauty of printed material – as well as the pleasures of whimsical, alternative curation.
We display our stock in a way that maximises the visual impact of book design, liberally spreading titles over tables and shelves face-out where possible. The shop is well-known for foregoing traditional sections, instead favouring mixes of the booksellers’ picks which allows for a unique browsing experience and the kind of serendipitous discovering that more traditional layouts – or algorithms – cannot replicate.
The building itself has been lovingly renovated inside, combining the charm and character of the original space with a playful sense of fun and panache. The overall effect is an invitation to browse, discuss and spend time reading – not just to come and buy books.
We also have a rich publishing history. The Book Hive is the original home of Galley Beggar Press, established here by owner Henry Layte and two of his customers. Set up after frequent discussions lamenting how many excellent writers go unnoticed, their first title came into being when Henry persuaded his old friend Simon Gough to take a punt and let them publish his novel The White Goddess: An Encounter. After working on that and the next four books – including discovering Eimear McBride’s game-changer A Girl is a Half-formed Thing – Henry split to set up Propolis, the shop’s own award-winning imprint, which counts Poet Laureate Simon Armitage amongst its authors.
The shop hosts regular events, including a weekly quiet reading hour called Page Against The Machine, author signings, launches and other book-related goings on. The top floor has various uses, including, on occasion, private work booths. Margaret Atwood finished her novel The Heart Goes Last in one of them.
The Daily Telegraph’s Best Small Bookshop in Britain (2011).
First place in the East in The Independent’s Top 50 Bookshops in the UK (2012).
The British Book Award’s Best Independent Bookshop in the East of England (2018, 2020).