Books Afloat - The Book Barge


We've probably all considered it. To hell with the consequences, let's do something daring. Let's...go travelling or move home. For Sarah Henshaw, the idea was this: let's buy a barge and travel that nation's canals.

Yet Sarah had an even more unique take on things. Bored and uninspired with life as an entertainment journalist, she considered that a barge might be the perfect place for a shop.  A bookshop.

That was five years ago. Sarah's idea has long since been a reality; one which has taken her on a journey of five years, over 1,000 miles and through 707 locks. In that time she's sold 1,395 books.

The shop has graced the canals of London, Bristol, Oxford, Brimingham, Llangollen Leeds, Manchester. It has also doubled as a home for Sarah and mascots, including the current resident: Napoleon Bunnyparte.

It all sounds a bit like the introduction to a book, doesn't it? Well that's exactly what it's become. A story to tug at all the hearts of all those seeking A change, The Bookshop That Floats is available now., published by Constable.

Honestly though, the captivating introduction to Sarah's journey is far better read than described. So here it is:

In early 2009 a strange sort of business plan landed on the desk of a pinstriped bank manager. It had pictures of rats and moles in rowing boats and archaic quotes about Cleopatra's barge. It asked for a £30,000 loan to buy a black-and-cream narrowboat and a small hoard of books.

The manager said no, and so did others, but...well Sarah made it work anyway. And still, through tough times, it works. Sometimes books were used to barter for goods and services. Sometimes a barge-based disaster occurred. But Sarah kept on. And it gladdens the heart, she did.

The Bookshop that Floats  currently sits 6th in Amazon's 'Biography > Business & Finance' section. It also sits among the top ten of 'Travel & Holiday > Travel Writing', and 'Business, Finance & Law > Biographies and Histories' (imagine that!).

Happily, Sarah is still running the shop - apparently moored near Broadway Market, Hackney over Easter. She's still selling others' books as well; although now she has her own to add to her story.


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