What makes The Book Nook in Stewarton the best bookshop in Scotland?

We speak to the owner about this accolade
Sarah FrameSarah Frame
Sarah Frame

It wasn’t so long ago that bookshops seemed to be going in the same direction as Blockbuster and old-school grocers.

However, news of their imminent demise was greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by the fact that there were 77 finalists in The British Book Awards 2024’s Independent Bookshop of the Year category. The Scottish regional winner of this prize, which was announced last week, was The Book Nook in the East Ayrshire town of Stewarton. We asked their owner, Sarah Frame, about owning the best in Scotland.

How do you feel about winning the prize?

The Book Nook exteriorThe Book Nook exterior
The Book Nook exterior
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It means so much. I can't describe how thrilled I am. I feel it recognises all the hard work from myself and my team, including having to cope with the challenges of lockdown, the move to new premises, the cost-of-living crisis, and how much we strive to make The Book Nook a valuable asset to Stewarton.

When and why did you start up the bookshop?

I had a career in the corporate sector and, due to a change in my personal circumstances, I decided to try to make my lifelong dream come to fruition, to share my passion for books and reading, and offer a positive contribution to my local community. I opened my bookshop in December 2020 - traded for eight days then closed for the second lockdown until May 2021. I did some online orders and home deliveries during lockdown to try and keep in contact with my customers. In October 2022 I moved to much larger premises, so that I could have a big children's area and room to hold lots of author events, and clubs.

I am glad I made the decision to open my bookshop. I do love it, but anyone who thinks the job is 'cosy and relaxing' has no idea. It is really hard work but very fulfilling and rewarding. It is wonderful being part of a whole new community of other booksellers, authors and publishers.

Children's area in The Book NookChildren's area in The Book Nook
Children's area in The Book Nook

When did your love of books begin?

When I was seven, I was ill with rheumatic fever, which confined me to bed for months, unable to do anything except read. I started with the usual children's books, like Enid Blyton, then moved on to children's classics and then onto more adult classics too - Dickens etc. Reading enabled me to escape the pain, loneliness and confinement of being ill, and meant that in my imagination I went to new places and met new people. That joy of reading never left me and I love sharing it with others.

How do bookshops continue to survive in the internet age?

It is a challenge with competition from online retailers and the options to read or listen to audiobooks. However, they have not disappeared and, in fact, there is growth in people reading print books. It is critical to make your bookshop a personalised experience, not just a place to buy. A bookshop is a vital part of its community, where people should feel welcome and relaxed and which offers a variety of book-related activities.

What are your current bestsellers?

Right now, The Women by Kristin Hannah is selling well, as is Water by John Boyne (anything by John Boyne actually), Poyums by Len Penny and The Forcing by Paul Hardisty.

Which genres do particularly well?

There's no one genre that stands out, we sell a good mix of contemporary fiction, crime fiction, and nonfiction titles. There is a growing demand for poetry too. There is always a small core of poetry lovers, but poets like Donna Ashworth and Len Pennie have had a huge impact on bringing it into the lives of people who may not previously have thought they would enjoy it. To demonstrate the popularity, I have 125 bookings for our Book Nook event with Donna Ashworth this Sunday and had even more people who wanted to come but the venue was at full capacity. Poyums is hugely popular just now, going straight into the bestsellers list. This is poetry which people relate to strongly and find very relevant.

Are customers especially interested in Scottish writers?Scottish writers and books set locally are always popular. There is great interest particularly in Scottish crime writing, often referred to as 'tartan noir'. I have had fantastic support from many of our fantastic Scottish crime writers, including Quintin Jardine, Denzil Meyrick, Caro Ramsay, Lin Anderson, Douglas Skelton and Alex Gray, who are among the many authors who have had events at The Book Nook. I had 24 author events at The Book Nook last year and eight this year so far, so it is going to be another busy one.

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What other independent businesses have sprung up in Stewarton?

We’re proud of our good range of independent shops and eateries and are working together to try and weather the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis. Our shops include clothes boutiques, baby clothes shops, gift shops, a shop making and selling candles, one that specialises in dog nutrition, care and behaviour, and, very recently, we got an ice cream parlour selling Ayrshire made ice cream.

Do you offer anything apart from books?

Tales for Tinies for babies and toddlers, Junior Book Nook Clubs for children, adult BookNookers Club, regular author events (free to attend) and workshops. People are always welcome to pop in for a coffee and chat and there are play facilities to keep the children happy.

Any favourite customers?

Of course there are regulars that I now know very well and regard as friends. I also love my 'tinies' that come to the baby and toddler sessions. We get quite attached to some of them and miss them when they go off to nursery.

The Book Nook, 6 High Street, Stewarton, www.booknookstewarton.co.uk



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