The North Recommends: 1b Books

Newcastle-upon-Tyne recently gained its first independent bookshop with the opening of 1b Books in Heaton. NWN Programme Manager Hana Sandhu took a visit to look around, meet the owners, and find out what it’s all about.

Selling both new and second-hand books, 1b Books is the latest addition to Heaton’s thriving independent scene. As an equally new arrival to the neighbourhood, I was excited to learn that it’s my local bookshop and quickly popped in for a browse.

Talking to Mandy, co-owner of 1b alongside partner Kate, she warmly guides me around the shop, an immediately welcoming space which has breathed new life into a lot that was previously vacant for four years. She credits local designers, Dan Civico and Jack Nockels, for creating its light filled interior and fluid design. I find myself busily noting down recommendations as Mandy enthusiastically points to her favourite titles, telling me the decision to subvert the typical order of representation and stock poetry and queer fiction at the front was a conscious one.

The bookshop’s main table is a curated selection of classic and newly published fiction, that reflects both Mandy’s passion for working class/LGBTQ+ writing and Kate’s deep knowledge of literary and translated fiction. Indeed, as I spot one of my favourite working-class memoirs – Didier Eribon’s unforgettable Returning to Reims – I’m struck by how rare it is to see working-class writing, particularly translated working-class writing, being given the focus it is here.

Every Friday, Kate runs a baby and toddler book group, transforming the shop into a temporary play den for Heaton’s book loving toddlers – ‘we had twenty babies here last Friday!’ Mandy says, chuckling. A YA book group is another regular meetup on the 1b calendar. Since opening its doors 6 months ago, 1b Books is thoughtfully reinventing what a local independent bookshop can be, championing genres that are still considered niche in their audience and building community relationships through a shared love of reading.

1a/1b Bolingbroke Street,
Heaton, Newcastle, NE6 5PH
Open Tues – Sun