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Reading Spa at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath

I spent a long weekend in Bath at the end of June.  It’s a lovely city and while I’ve only been twice, it’s quickly becoming a favourite city break destination in the UK.  I did have a very specific reason for going this time, however – at Christmas, I was the very lucky recipient of a Reading Spa at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (Mr B’s from here on in).  

If you’re not familiar with the idea, a Reading Spa is like a personal shopper experience but specifically for books.  You have a chat with one of their bibliotherapists who will work out what you do and don’t enjoy and who will then make a series of recommendations personalised to your tastes.  There’s no obligation to purchase any of the books that are recommended, and while the cost of the Reading Spa does include an amount for you to spend on books on the day, you’re free to spend it on any books that you like. 

You may have noticed that there was quite a gap between me receiving the Reading Spa as a gift (December), booking the session (January), and actually going (June).  The Reading Spa is quite popular and so they do get booked up a long way in advance, particularly on Fridays which was my preferred day (they aren’t currently run at all at weekends).  I live a fair distance from Bath and so I was keen to make a long weekend of it.  If I had been available on other days of the week, the lead time would have been much reduced – I was offered dates within two to four weeks of reaching out to Mr B’s for Monday to Thursday slots, but don’t quote me on that as I expect that availability will vary.    

Initial Booking

The booking of my Reading Spa was straightforward.  I emailed Mr B’s with my voucher code and highlighted my preference for a Friday slot.  A date and time were quickly confirmed, and I was asked to provide a little information about my reading preferences.  This information is used to pair you up with the appropriate bibliotherapist on the day to ensure that you get the most out the experience.    

I mentioned a few favourites such as Cloud Atlas and Oryx and Crake (my actual favourite varies between the two, although I’m in a Cloud Atlas phase at the moment 😊).  I also mentioned Jasper Fforde, my love of the retellings of the Greek myths (Natalie Haynes, Emily Hauser et al.), and dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction as well as some general dislikes. 

And that was it. A brief email exchange, and everything was set.

The Reading Spa

The day finally arrived, and while my journey wasn’t quite as straightforward as intended (just my luck that it coincided with the rail strikes!) I arrived in Bath with some time to relax before heading to Mr B’s.

Upon arrival, I was shown up to an upstairs room.  This is part of the shop containing, amongst other things, the travel section and staff picks and – perhaps most importantly for the Reading Spa – two chairs and a small table.  I was offered a drink and then I settled down with my bibliotherapist to chat about books. 

After the discussion, during which notes were made, my bibliotherapist made a few initial suggestions, presenting around five or six titles and explaining why they would recommend each one.  After that, I was given cake (brownie tray bake on the day in question, although I think it varies) to distract me while my bibliotherapist went around the shop to find more books to recommend and leaving me to further examine the initial selection. 

When they returned, it was with a huge pile of books and again each one was introduced with an explanation as to why it had been selected. Around 15 books were recommended to me in total, and while there were a couple that I’d already read, there were several that I hadn’t even heard of.  I was really impressed – it was clear that my bibliotherapist had understand my likes and dislikes from our discussion and was able to pick out key themes and topics in making their selection. 

I was then left alone to examine the books that had been recommended and to decide what to take away with me.  As mentioned, there’s no obligation to buy the books that are recommended to you although I was presented with such a fantastic selection that I didn’t even consider other options. 

You can see my selection here, which has a strong dystopian vibe with a little added horror as I mentioned that this is a genre that I’d like to read more of but that I find to be very hit and miss.  I can’t wait to get stuck into these and I’m planning to read through them over the next month or so.

While I wouldn’t have minded my bibliotherapist hanging around to see which books I selected, I do think that it was nice that I was left alone to make my final choices.  It removes any pressure (real or imagined) to take on their recommendations and I can imagine that it might become a little uncomfortable if you feel that there’s someone watching you while you decide. 

There was also a nice additional touch.  After I’d left Mr B’s, I was emailed with the list of the books that I hadn’t selected, meaning that I don’t have to try and remember the ones that I didn’t buy on the day. 

Pricing and Value for Money

At the time of writing, a Reading Spa at Mr B’s costs £95.  This includes a £60 voucher to spend on the day as well as a £10 voucher to spend at a later date.  I returned to Mr B’s the next day to use mine given that I don’t live nearby, picking up one of the recommendations that I didn’t select on the day (included in the stack above).    

That £95 also includes some merchandise including a tote bag (which was very much appreciated by the end of the Reading Spa!), a mug, and a bookmark.  And of course the tea and cake.  I was there for around an hour and forty minutes in total (I’d have stayed longer but the shop was about to close!), although it didn’t feel anywhere near that long, and I felt that the Reading Spa offered excellent value for money.

Conclusion

All in all, Mr B’s Reading Spa was a fantastic experience, and one that I can’t recommend enough for book lovers.  Whether you’re looking for more recommendations in your favourite genres or want to try something new (or a combination of both!) I’m sure that Mr B’s will have something to suit you.

You can find out more – and purchase a Reading Spa! – at their website: https://mrbsemporium.com/

11 comments

    1. I loved it! And I’m SO happy with the recommendations – now I just need to get through a few ARCs and I can get stuck in! x

  1. What a wonderful experience. It’s something Ive been tempted to do but hesitated in case they would recommend books that really wouldn’t appeal. Sounds like they take great care to avoid that.

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t recommend it enough. They take great care to pair you up with the right bibliotherapist and the chat on the day gives them plenty to go at in terms of selecting books for you. I was really happy with the choices made for me, but even then, there’s no commitment to purchase the books they’ve selected. I say give it a go!

    1. I highly recommend it, Jill – it was a wonderful experience. Now I need to get through a few review copies and I can get stuck in! x

    1. Yes – it’s a wonderful experience, and I would LOVE to do it as a job! Would you be put out if someone didn’t like your recommendations though…?

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