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Bookshop celebrates 40 years in Chalk Farm

'I ploughed everything back into buying more stock - but it worked'

22 August, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

David Tobin with a copy of Walden

IT has been a beacon of knowledge in Chalk Farm, selling both pristine tomes and well- thumbed copies – and now Walden Books is celebrating 40 years in the book trade this week.

Set up by proprietor David Tobin, Walden Books in Harmood Street has weathered the rise of online stores, chains slashing prices and changes in reading habits to meet its middle-aged years in rude health.

Mr Tobin, who was running a book stall at Hampstead Community Centre, opened his own shop in 1979.

He said: “It was very hand to mouth at first and I ploughed everything back into buying more stock – but it worked.”

The shop’s name comes from the classic Victorian author Henry David Thoreau’s tome, Walden, in which the American nature writer lived simply in a shack by a pond in Massachusetts for a year.

David, a keen swimmer at the Men’s Pond on Hampstead Heath, has even travelled to Walden Pond – where he swam the mile length of the water.

He added: “It is a favourite book of mine and has a message in it that there are more important things in life than working.”

And he believes the future is rosy for book lovers because of a new surge of interest among young people.

He said: “They love the quality of the designs and the print and I feel very optimistic today about the trade.

“They ask questions about life, about society, they are interested in alternative ways of seeing things – and books are a great entry into that. They know the wisdom of the ages is to be found in books.

“I believe in the power of the printed word. For less than the price of a cup of coffee you can buy beautiful objects that contain knowledge.”

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