I love my books. As an English Literature graduate that should be pretty obvious but it is important to clarify that I am just not down with all that e-book nonsense. Yes, it must save you a fortune in luggage costs when you go abroad. Yes, it would be nice not to lug 7 books around for a week-long holiday. BUT e-books are rubbish.
You can’t enjoy the cover, or fold over a page. You can’t write little notes in the column in pencil (old habits die hard). An e-book has no smell, no personality, no history. And you don’t get the same experience purchasing an e-book as you do when you buy a hard copy, browsing for a novel to suit your mood.
So in celebration of the book, a list of five of the best London bookshops you should visit. Inspired by this dramatic beauty in the Netherlands.
My five favourites…
A small, independent bookshop in North West London. A beautiful interior and a fairly wide selection of books (including a great local history section). Bill Nighy pops in from time to time, and if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for me…
This is what I would describe as ‘a darling of a bookshop’. I don’t know why, as I don’t usually describe things like that, but it fits. It is small and they have a very cute tea / coffee station downstairs. Light, spacious and airy but not too modern that you forget you are in a bookshop. Our jaws dropped open when we sneakily saw the concealed private office. Very nifty.
I’ve been visiting this bookshop since I was 14. It is rammed full of books, mostly very reasonable, and all rather old. It is a book lovers paradise but don’t expect to pick up any pristine gifts from here. I also love the location; it is down a cobbled street just off the high street that eventually leads you to the fairy shop (I don’t like pink girly fairy things but this shop is awesome) and then towards the Heath. The owner (presumably Keith, but I’ve never asked) is also fabulous – incredibly knowledgeable and well worth speaking to.
I have lost count of the number of people I have dragged into this shop. The basement, where every book is 50p or a pound, is fantastic and goes on forever. That said it is rather creepy down there alone so take a friend along for the ride. A varied selection is on offer in the basement – I once found a University prospectus on sale for 50p which I did think was a rip-off since they hand them out for free… Back upstairs you can pick up classic novels, hefty critical works, old cookbooks and fairly recent fiction from a couple of quid. They also have a good selection of comic books and magazines – I’ve never looked closely at the comics, but with the magazines think old copies of Vogue and Wallpaper* and some other weird, random stuff.
The last time I visited this shop I bought a copy of Naomi Klein’s No Logo (which is well worth a read, to say the least). I then went round the corner to the British Museum and looked at the Egyptian mummies, before sitting down under the beautiful roof with a cup of tea and reading about all the nasty things those naughty corporations get up to. The bookshop itself has a fairly limited stock in store but if my adventure above whetted your appetite then it is worth a visit. You can definitely find something there that will make you want to change the world.
I also went to a lovely bookshop near(ish) the Louvre in Paris. What makes wandering around a bookshop so special, even when you can’t understand the content because it is in a foreign language?
Where is your favourite bookshop, and what do you love most about it?