The geeses are writing their wills, and you've decided to give everybody – mummy, daddy, Aunt Margaret and the corgis – books for Christmas. The only problem is that you are basking on a beach in Bali, confined to the house by flu, or tramping the city streets in a fug of festive anti-cheer. Help is at hand. All the websites below belong to real bookshops, staffed by real people – extremely knowledgeable people. You can log on to see what is available, find out what is new, and discover what is flying off the shelves. You can also e-mail for reading lists, suggestions and further information. In most cases you can order on-line or, if you prefer, use fax or phone or even (quaint idea) go along to the shop itself. All the sites list the shop locations. Some even provide maps and pictures of the staff and pets.
Crime in Store
What the staff in this Covent Garden shop don't know about murder, in the purely literary sense, isn't worth knowing. You can amble in with some ill-remembered plot, a snatch of a title or a vague recollection of a name, and they'll toddle off and bring back the goods. Awesome. The site is exhaustive rather than pictorial, although the blood-splatters set the scene nicely. You can browse a huge stocklist, see what is selling well and get staff recommendations. There'll be something for the dedicated crime buff as well as mainstream readers. Mind you, it would probably be a bit too obvious to ask about undetectable ways to polish off Auntie over the pud.
Look here for that perfect something for sports fans in the family. They have shops in London and Manchester and specialise in all sports. The database of thousands of items is easily searched, and you have to admire any bookshop that comes up with two suggestions for "racing pigeons" and a whole pageful on "synchronised swimming". Most of us will use them for fans of cricket, football and rugby, but the day that cake-baking and icing turns into an Olympic sport, they'll have something on it.
The Travel Bookshop
Search for books on this attractive but businesslike site by author or title, or using a world map. Alternatively, look at the selection of new books or bestsellers. Guidebooks are only a tiny percentage of the stock in this Notting Hill shop (yes, the one featured in the film), and they'll have something for anyone interested in historical or modern travel to any part of the globe. They also have those glossy tomes that Santa just loves to load up on the reindeer. Think laterally: a book on the Arctic is just the thing for that tedious cousin who does nothing but moan about the British winter.
One of the best art booksellers, with shops in several cities, has a stylish site. As well as choosing a simple search by author or title, you can browse by the major categories of art, architecture, photography, film or design. Book covers are displayed in all their glory and there's a small blurb about each title. This is a good move – especially with arty books, as we often do choose them by their covers.If there isn't a volume here for the artistic member of the clan, you'll be very unlucky.
Books for Cooks
Poor old Books for Cooks, that wonderful London example of all that is exciting about independent bookselling, is having techno-nightmares with its website. The new one won't be ready until the new year, and the interim site in no way reflects its stunning stock of books about food and wine. However, you can read all about the shop, e-mail for suggestions and then order by phone, fax or in person. You'll find items here to set the most discerning foodie drooling. In the post-Christmas doldrums log on when the new site is up and find something for yourself – a reward for surviving the season with your temper intact, or consolation if you didn't.Reuse content