During lockdown, reading provided an emotional crutch for so many of us, offering escape routes to fantasy worlds.

But while ordering books online is convenient, nothing compares to the satisfying sensation of thumbing through a paperback in an actual book shop or spending hours studying decorative covers on the shelves.

Now shops have reopened, avid readers were encouraged to explore Britain’s beloved bookstores as part of Independent Bookshop Week which ends today.

Here, with the help of the Essex Book Festival, we look some the best Essex has to offer. 

Red Lion Books, Colchester

In the heart of Colchester, along the High Street, sits Red Lion Books.

The shop was founded in 1978 by Peter and Sarah Donaldson. 

It opened originally in Red Lion Yard, in a unit converted from the stables of the old coaching Inn.

In 1985 the shop moved over the High Street to its present site and in 1989 the basement was converted to provide more sales space.

Wivenhoe Bookshop

Over 44 years, the Wivenhoe Bookshop has put down deep roots and become a central part of Wivenhoe life. 

On their website they say: "A visit or call to the bookshop isn’t just about a purchase, it’s a conversation, perhaps a long and discursive one, catching up with friends and making new ones. 

"There will often be an embrace or a shared cup of tea.  Our interests range from the latest adult fiction and children's books to contemporary poetry, political debate, psychogeography and much more."

Caxton Books, Frinton

Caxton Books & Gallery, owned by Judith Charlesworth and Sally Johnson, is a well-established independent bookshop in the heart of Frinton’s renowned Connaught Avenue.

They run a book club and events with local authors.

Maldon Books

Maldon Books is cosy and friendly and offers a range of new and bestselling titles.

They’re a place for book lovers old and new to browse at their own leisure.

Jacqson Diego Story Emporium, Westcliff

This award winning children’s bookshop is filled with books, stories and oodles of imagination, creativity and wonder for young people from birth to 16 years.

Their space brings together everything they do to inspire children and young people through books and stories on their own terms.

Chicken and Frog Bookshop, Brentwood

A specialist children’s bookshop with a tuition centre on site, Chicken and Frog Bookshop stock an eclectic mix of diverse books to suit all tastes and interests.

They have a real passion for children’s books and are committed to providing a community-centred bookshop in the heart of Brentwood.

Between the Lines, Great Bardfield

Between the Lines is a small, but beautifully-formed, independent bookshop offering a wide range of fiction and non-fiction for all ages.

They opened in June 2013 and are open daily.

Harts Books, Saffron Walden

For over 175 years Hart’s has been Saffron Walden’s independent bookseller of choice, occupying shops in the centre of town.

The friendly team are always on hand to help with all your book-related needs and recommendations.