I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of bookshops. There are probably actually a lot more types than that, but the dividing line between these two types is as uncompromising as the Berlin Wall. There are bookshops that stock what's popular, new and fashionable – with some classics thrown in for good measure, and there are bookshops that stock just the best books you have and haven't heard of, carefully selected by impossibly well read staff.
If you know what you want then it's OK to visit one of the first type, because there's every chance that if they have it you'll find it as it will be on the shelf where its genre and author's name permit it to be. But if you're browsing for a read that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page and sat in silence lamenting the finish, then you need the second type. John Sandoe Books is a very, very fine example.
The look and feel of this bookshop has a hint of the second hand about it, but with the aroma of fresh books rather than old ones. And it's packed to the rafters. Downstairs the shelves are always full, and if you mount the spiral staircase to the top floor you'll find that it's even more full up here – they have these concertina shelves that mean they can fit more books in, but it does mean that you might need a bit of assistance finding what you're looking for. But that won't be a problem in this bookstore, the staff have a reputation for being very knowledgeable – both on the location of books, which books you might like to read and other useful general tidbits of information.
There is a method to the arrangement of the 25,000 (approx.) titles packed into the three 18th Century floors of the shop, but it will take you a number of visits to crack it, and part of the pleasure of the experience of a bookshop like this is the browsing and the getting of recommendations, so don't be afraid to ask and to chat. Even though that might not be the done thing in the 'other' kind of bookshop.
If you're looking for a hard to find book it's worth dropping in on the John Sandoe team – they have ways of getting their hands on books, even if they're out of print.