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Top 5 Independent Bookshops In London

Posted in Discussion
on January 20, 2017

 “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods 

Independent bookshops, with their creaky doors, worn-out sofas and overcrowded shelves, are little pockets of comfort in a fast-paced city. For Londoners it is the human touches that make indie bookshops so enticingly charming. Nestled among busy streets – often hidden in alleyways – they are the antithesis of Amazon algorithms and impersonal computer generated recommendations. From bookstores with monthly feminist book clubs, to secret locations and that wonderful old book smell, here is a guide to the best independent bookshops in London.

1. Lutyens and Rubinstein 

21 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU, 020-7792 4855 

LR 1

On a quaint Notting Hill street lined with bakeries and boutiques, this relatively new bookshop has quickly become a local staple. Founded by established literary agents, Lutyens and Rubinstein has gained a reputation as the place to go for some pleasant bookish chat, and rightly so. Customers are greeted like old friends by shop manager Claire, cup of tea in hand and eager to discuss this week’s new releases or reminisce about her favourite childhood reads. Offering the ultimate one-to-one experience, complete with coffee and biscuits, the knowledgeable staff add an old fashioned, personal dimension to bookselling.

LR 2

Children’s manager, Tara Spinks:It’s a cliché to say that London is a series of villages, but in our case, we really do feel like a village shop – we know a lot of our customers by name, and we know their interests and we’re able to curate the shop to fit that! When we opened, we asked a lot of people – friends and family particularly – what 10 books they would most like to see in the shop, which is how we selected our original core stock.”  

2. Persephone Books 

59 Lambs Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB, 020-7242 9292

P1

Capturing a feminist niche, this independent publisher and bookshop steers clear of market-driven book sales, and instead focuses on reprinting neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century women. This tiny cultural hub, named in homage to the daughter of Zeus, is a celebration of female accomplishment. With a warm and laidback atmosphere , the shop itself is decorated with feminist paintings, posters and vintage furniture, creating a cosy domestic setting for customers to sit and read, as well as recreating the limited spheres women occupied in the twentieth century. Persephone Books provides readers with an interactive experience. From the beautifully designed end papers to the monthly book club; this is an essential destination for all bibliophiles.

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WhatKatieDidNext blogger, Katie Morritt: “It’s encouraging that Persephone Books reprint works by neglected female writers. While women make up 51% of the human population, they seem to be shockingly underrepresented on the shelves of chains like WHSmith and Waterstones.”  

3. The Society Club 

12 Ingestre Place, London W1F 0JF, 020-7437 1433

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Hidden away down a side alley on Ingestre Place, The Society Club feels like Soho’s little secret. During the day the unique bookshop, cafe, cocktail bar and gallery combination is open to the public, but by 6 o’ clock the place transforms into a private members’ club. With  poetry nights, storytelling and live music, it is a place where aspiring writers and artists collaborate over a cocktail – perfect for Londoners wanting to get involved in London’s literary scene.

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Yelp reviewer, Lina O:d: I was there for an event organised with Tatty Devine, a jewellery company popular with my young people at the moment. It was a jewellery making workshop that was free of charge and with the founders of the brand. Such a nice experience, nice people and a really great environment.”

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4. Claire De Rouen 

125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EW, 020-7287 1813 

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Claire De Rouen, tucked away above a betting shop on Charing Cross Road and unnoticed by most passers-by, is the only specialist photography, fashion and art bookshop in London. To enter, customers have to walk up a narrow stairwell – the walls of which are plastered with contemporary art, and then turn right to find the secret entrance. Once inside you’ll find one of London’s most extensive collections of photo books, self-published books and rare collector editions, displayed beautifully on shelves overlooking the city.

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Frequent customer, Mohammed: Claire De Rouen has the best collection of photography books. It’s relaxing just to have a look at the work of the greats like David Bailey, Anders Petersen and Guy Bourdin, with a record playing in the background.” 

 

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5. Bookmarks 

1 Bloomsbury St, London WC1B 3QE, 020-7637 1848

B1

Specialising in left-wing literature, Bookmarks is London’s leading socialist bookshop and has been in business for over 40 years. The shelves are bursting with knowledge, stacked with an impressive selection of books covering subjects like politics, labour history, black struggle, women and culture, in the hope of providing young activists with information to inform their opinions. Dedicated to their cause, the bookshop provides stands in major demonstrations across country and has consequently created a young, politically active community through the power of the written word.

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Yelp reviewer, Fiona G: A wonderful shop for the sheer joy of the music & laughter that accompanies us when we march past this shop (and most demonstrations do, starting at London University) It’s got great books …and an interesting neighbour in the whisky shop next door!”

Poem: The Train Leaves At Quarter To 15

Posted in Creative Writing
on January 18, 2017

Dear,

The train leaves at quarter to 15.

 

Till then feel free to happa and bappa,

tippa and lippa.

 

If you want you can hoppa and boppa,

toppa and loppa,

 

But do not…

For your own good trust me when I say

DO NOT.

 

Talk to any Kizitiriz,

and definitely no Libdibs either.

 

Especially beside the Maclivio near the station.

 

It is dangerous this time of night.

 

They will appear to be nice and friendly.

They’ll charm you with their scritam,

and dipdam,

 

Gift you with Zip Zap and Lic Lav.

 

Take away your Pispas,

Leave you with no Tris tras.

 

Before you know it you’re cadoding.

Trapped in a Werdoding.

 

You don’t want to miss the last ever train at quarter to 15.

Or you’ll never get home.

Poem: Mama

Posted in Creative Writing
on January 18, 2017

You arrived kicking and screaming,

The day we were spl-

it in two.

Eyes firmly shut,

shut, like glue.

 

We feared the unknown,

Me and you.

From your first day of school

to the day you say I do.

 

I fear the day,

He tears your heart right through.

Because mama won’t wait for God

to break him in two.

5 Quotes from Children’s Books

Posted in Children's Books
on July 27, 2016

Children’s books are filled with wisdom – little nuggets of inspiration, life lessons and all round fuzziness. Often underestimated, they possess the power to send you back to the best of times and guide you through your toughest. Not to mention they often introduce children to the magical world of reading!

I can’t decide on the best quotes. Instead, I’ve composed a little list of some of the quotes that have stayed with me…

1. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland 

Alice in wonderland quote

2. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Little Prince quote

3. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Little Women Quote

4. J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Peter Pan Quote

5. Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Where the wild things are quote

Welcome to Halfway Street

Posted in Creative Writing
on June 23, 2016

You’re late. I’ve been patiently waiting, trapped in the gold edged pages and the curled up corners. Sandwiched between novellas and poetry collections; with missing dust jackets and rippled pages. You skimmed through the shelves and briefly stopped to linger on the creased spine. The musky scent of an old book seduced you. You flicked through and watched the specks of dust float by. Entranced by the typography, you watched the words dance around you and willingly allowed them to seep through your unconscious. Buried yourself deep into the ink faded words and found yourself standing in the cold, in Halfway Street. A narrow road between reality and fiction. Alone.  Far away from home, without a flickering streetlight in sight.

A notice board stands in the middle of the town centre. Coloured pins stick out like daggers; displaying local events, missing person leaflets and adverts for used items. In bold writing, it reads: Welcome. Cautiously, you walk up to the board and look at the different bits of paper. A yellow pin is stabbed through the paw of a double-headed cat. Well-groomed, its orange fur brushed to perfection; it lay on a single bed, perfectly posed. One head tilted towards the camera and the other at the ceiling. Missing. Family Cat. If found please call: 0363.

Beside the leaflet is an advert selling a second hand car, placed right at the bottom. A box shaped, lime green Fiat with three doors. A 2009 model, diesel fuelled, pictured in mid-air. Its two front doors open like wings. The driver smiling, showing a black tooth and a ginger beard up to his knees. Dressed in a motorcycle jacket, with a thumbs up at the camera; no more than 10 feet above the roof of a semi-detached house.

You hear the crackling sound of white noise and turn to spot an open window. On the windowsill is an old wooden radio; a loud blaring voice, erupts through the speakers: It’s the 36th December and the time is 9:35 and 2/4. There have been many callers reporting that the snowmen built over the weekend have adopted a life of their own. Experts have warned the public to not trust their gentle smiles and their friendly façade. The children may be excited to have a new friend, but it is advised to report any strange behaviour to the authorities. In large groups, they are proven to be dangerous. We are interrupting the news for a quick message, from our friend and neighbour, Sanjeev. He has misplaced his two year old son, Amir. He says he may have left him playing in the market by the toy section. If anybody comes across a little boy with brown curly hair and a red jumper, post him through door number 10’s letter box. It would be much appreciated. Don’t forget to tune in to-

A man in a bathroom robe shuts the window. Wearily eyes up the stranger wearing red, flannel pyjamas. I recognise you immediately. Something about your posture. Or maybe it’s because your eyes are dazed with confusion and excitement. I lightly tap you on the shoulder. You don’t jump or ask any questions; you look at the Hello my name is tag on my chest. In a messy joining of letters it says Narrator.

I must warn you. Front doors are bolted before the sun disappears into the horizon. There’s a madness that possesses the vulnerable at night. Knocks you blind and reveals any hidden, uncivilised desires supressed inside. The itch to silence a nagging husband would fester under the skin. Mild irritation towards a friend, turns into the unshakeable desire to bring an axe to their head. Kind, romantic touches between lovers becomes two hands tightly gripped around each other’s necks.

Only the strange come out at this time. But you’ll adjust. The shadowy figures will become concrete outlines. The odour from the rat infested sewers will no longer make your eyes water and the voices will become less menacing. The narrowness of the paths contain the mumbling of the insane and they’ve heard about our new visitor lurking around Halfway Street.

Follow me. Hold on to my hand and I’ll guide you. We are only a short walk to meeting our characters. All the best adventures begin with the turn of a page.