Review: Mr B’s Reading Spa

So, readers.  Autumn has well and truly drawn in.  You’re eating more apple crumble and you’re pulling on woolly tights.  I bet what you’re also doing more of is reading – curling up on the sofa, on grey and blustery Sunday afternoons.  Well, book nerds, this post is for you; a review by the lovely Katy, on the glorious Mr B’s Reading Spa.   Katy’s got some brilliant reading suggestions below (she’s listed some down there that are in my “if there was an apocalypse, these are amongst the books I’d grab to read it the wasteland” list) – for when you next trot off to the library/download onto Kindle/have a spree in a bookshop.  All links to the AOW Book Store.     


I promised a post to Anna K on this ages ago and honestly? I have been so busy reading (not just the books recommended, but all sorts of others) that I haven’t got round to it! I suppose that’s a pretty good excuse, given the subject matter.

After some gentle/heavy handed (depending on your point of view) hinting, Mr W bought me a Reading Spa voucher at Mr B’s for Christmas – you can see the original post on the idea here which is what sparked off the request (demand).  I don’t live anywhere particularly near Bath but as it happened, I was going to a hen do there in January of a lovely friend – we were meeting up on the Friday night so I decided to book the Friday afternoon off work and head down early so that I could go for my Spa.

The bilbliotherapy chair

I arrived at Mr B’s, laden down with Many Bags (the hen do involved an afternoon tea party and I had mistakenly volunteered to bring 3 cake stands, a teapot and several teacups with me which in retrospect was a slight misjudgement) – they very kindly stored them away for me and showed me to the upstairs Bibliotherapy Room where I was met by Ed – who immediately got me a cup of tea. Brilliant.

Bibliotherapy room…

…and from a wider angle!

Before I went to the Spa I had to send an email with the kind of books I liked and disliked – here’s what I put:

I mostly read contemporary fiction (I would rather read a modern novel about Victorian subjects, than a Victorian novel, if that makes sense).  I seem to inadvertently have had a theme of books set in mid century New York/New England recently (Kavalier & Clay, Rules of Civility, Tigers in Red Weather) all of which I’ve enjoyed.  I like books with a good range in time and setting (less interested in a really intricate study of a single day), and plot and characterisation are as important as the writing style.

Things I’ve read recently and loved…

Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (and thereafter a lot of other Hilary Mantel)

Lots of David Mitchell, especially Ghostwritten and the Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Rules of Civility and Kavalier & Clay, as above

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Loads of Neil Gaiman – favourites are American Gods and Neverwhere (I like books with a sense of place – here, London – and so I also like the Rivers of London books)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor; the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I like the odd bit of fantasy but it has to be well written

Hunger Games (!!)

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I hope that helps?

Apparently that was one of the shortest emails they had had! But it meant they were able to pick plenty of books for me.  After a chat about the above books, along with lots of others, Ed picked out a big pile of books for me to choose from. (The reading spa includes a £40 book token – although I ended up spending more than that).

Books I chose…

…and books still to buy!

In all I was recommended about 16 books and I bought 6 – including my first graphic novel (The Nao of Brown – all the pictures are watercolours and it’s beautiful).  I haven’t finished reading them all yet as I’ve been savouring them, so I still have two left (The Missing, and Your Presence Is Requested At Suvanto).  I really loved The Knife Of Never Letting Go – for those of you who like Divergent, and the Hunger Games, this could be for you – the protagonists are a bit younger than Divergent etc so there is no romance (yet) but the story is brilliant.  I’ve also enjoyed being introduced to new authors, particularly those (e.g. China Mieville and Patrick Ness) who have a back catalogue of work I can start working my way through.

Finally, (and disappointingly I forgot to take a picture as I was too busy eating it) Ed brought me an amazing triple chocolate brownie which set me up for browsing through the books and for the hen do ahead.

I would definitely recommend a Reading Spa if you want to expand the authors and types of books you read – I was finding myself getting into a bit of a rut of Kindle suggestions where you end up going for the same few types of books that Amazon recommends to you – and if you want to spend a lovely couple of hours drinking tea, eating cake and talking about books. I think the price (£55 including a £40 book token) is really good value for 2 hours of undivided attention from a book expert, and it also gives you permission to buy books you wouldn’t necessarily do normally, perhaps because of price.  For example, ordinarily I wouldn’t buy a £19 graphic novel, but I felt I could because it was part of the book token.

Once I’d bought all my books, collected my many bags (more, now I had a big and heavy bag of books!) I toddled off up the hill to the hen do mayhem – all in all a very satisfactory Friday afternoon.

Categories: Books
26 interesting thoughts on this


  1. rachel JHD
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Lovely to read about your experience there. Sounds just as lovely as mine, including the cake. I have really enjoyed all the books that I bought there.

  2. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I have very different taste in books to you and LOVED A Fraction of the Whole so would be interested to hear if you liked it (though you have similar taste to my husband who also loved it – and I do love Neil Gaiman).

    Do you think this would be a good gift for a book but not cake living male? I kind of want to buy these experiences for everyone (we usually buy people books as presents)

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Um – Fraction of the Whole was probably the one I struggled the most with out of the selection (I still have a couple left to read) – I didn’t warm to the characters (I know you’re probably not meant to) and found the philosophising distracting. But… I can see how it’s the kind of book that would divide people and that people would love it too! What I really liked about the spa was that it took me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to books I’d never normally pick up, which is always a good thing I think.

      I think the spa would be a great gift for a book loving male (in fact I have just bought it for one) – the tea and cake is ancillary, it’s definitely a Book Thing with a cup of tea, rather than e.g. afternoon tea with a short discussion about books.

      They also do a thing where they send you a book a month after you’ve filled in a survey which would be a longer lasting present but maybe a bit less personal than the book spa.

      K x

      • Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Most use of the word ‘thing’ in any comment – you would have thought that having the spa would improve my vocabulary!

        • Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the reply – it took some getting into but I thought it was really funny (but then I have a dark sense of humour so I guess that was going to happen). I’ll look into this as a special gift for someone – thank you!

    • Amanda M
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Tell you what, I’ll take the cake-eating part off your hands…

  3. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Oh man I am in such a book rut… This had made me realise! Does it qualify as a medical emergency where I need done kind of book therapy? I hope so.
    Sounds awesome Katy, yay!

  4. Gemma N
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    That looks like such a fantastic shop. And thinking both the spa voucher and the year of reading would make excellent Christmas presents, I have some candidates in mind!

    On a related note, I came across the word ‘abibliophobia’ yesterday, which means the fear or anxiety of running out of things to read. Thought it might be appropriate for lots of AOWers! :)

    • Amanda M
      Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      I DEFINITELY suffer from abibliophobia!

  5. Yanthé
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    We are mini-mooning in Bath, so at least a visit to this shop is going on the itinerary! It sounds wonderful. I used to devour book after book but recently I have found myself reading less and less and that makes me so sad; this is great inspiration to get going again, thank you Katy xx

  6. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Every time I hear about this I think it sounds amazing, sadly Bath is pretty far away from me. I love finding a new author and discovering their back catalogue instead of reading the same old thing.
    My local library is good as they’ve always got displays of books that I try to pick something different from. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but such is the joy of reading!

    • Posted October 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m thinking of setting a reading spa up in my new house! Want to help?!

  7. Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    This sounds amazing – a reading spa voucher is definitely going on my Christmas list! xx

  8. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Ugh, same here with the mahooosive book rut. Honestly, I’m getting really quite depressed about it so this is an excellently timed post :)

  9. Lee-Anne
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I am so jealous, I have been majorly hinting at hubby to get me this as a gift but living in Glasgow means Bath isn’t the easiest place to get to. Trying to convince him to have a wee weekend away once I have popped out the baby.

    I too am in a reading rut, I read so much teen fiction as part of my job that when it comes to anything else I am totally lost.

  10. Posted October 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this idea! I’ve just mentioned to 3 of my girlfriends! It’s on my ‘must do’ list! Thank you for telling us all about it! x

  11. Posted October 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I loved reading about this and would absolutely love to go here myself. Why is Bath so far away and who is working on that AOW transporter thing again?? xx

  12. Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    This place looks like a little slice of my kind of heaven. I love the idea of book therapy – I’m another one stuck in a bit of a reading rut.

    My brother lives in Bath. SO annoyed I didn’t know it was there when I went over summer – think I might treat myself next time I’m visiting!

  13. Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    This looks amazing! I am very guilty of choosing 95% of my books because they are on the buy-one-get-one-half-price tables in Waterstone’s. I love the idea of their ‘Reading Year’ as well – books delivered to you in paper packages tied up with string! Time to drop some hints…

  14. Fran M
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Realllllly want to do this! Might also have to do some heavy handed hinting for Christmas. Great to hear exactly what the experience involves as well. I love reading but I’m in serious need of inspiration. Did a degree in English Lit but feel that I’ve lost my reading mojo still… yup that’s eight years on – argh!

  15. Sarah
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    This sounds amazing. I am definitely paying a visit to Mr B’s next time I’m in Bath. I have been getting through a lot of books recently, but I’m stuck in a rut with some relatively easy reading (work has been incredibly stressful recently, so I haven’t felt like anything too challenging!), falling back on Amazon’s recommendations as mentioned above. This sounds like a brilliant idea, and a great gift! x

  16. Katielase
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh I just loved Mr B’s. For my birthday Gareth booked me a reading spa as a surprise, I arrived thinking he was just taking me to a bookshop because, well obviously because I love them, but then I was sat down with tea and brownie and settled in for what was probably the best afternoon of all time. I ended up buying 10 books, all of which I enjoyed reading, for a whole range of different reasons. I also have another 10 on my To Buy list as a result of the many many wonderful recommendations I was given.

    I basically want to live there.

    KL xx

  17. Posted October 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you everyone – it is such a lovely place to go even if you’re not there for a reading spa. Quite tempted to make a special trip to Bath to go back…

    K x

  18. Amanda M
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    What an enjoyable post. Even without a brownie at hand.

    I’ve read The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequels (can’t remember if it was another trilogy or whether he went mad and broke the rule of teen fiction and went for four) – glad you enjoyed it. Not my favourite of its genre but very visual and quirky. I think I need to try Neil Gaiman – I LOVED Rivers of London.

    • Posted October 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Ooh – try Neverwhere if you liked Rivers of London, it’s great!

      K x

  19. Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    There is very little I have found to do that made me quite as happy cosy as the Spa experience. I was also suggested the Tale of two cities, and also the Art of Fielding (as part of my reading year with Mr B’s) which I actually only just finished today! The reading year is a monthly book subscription where following the spa experience or just a smaller chat they send you a book a month in tune with what you would like, either hard or paper back. This is just as magical! I am in the midst of starting a blog in which I will endeavour to reveal and review each book I receive and I have already written a post about the spa experience ( I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts about it. Loving all things Mr B’s right now!

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