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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.

P2

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

S1

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.

S2

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.”

S4

4. Claire De Rouen 

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

C1

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.

C2

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.” 

 

c3

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.

b2

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!”

My Reading History

Posted in Discussion
on June 12, 2016

Let’s get to know each other! Initially I struggled to come up with an introductory, first post. Oh the blank page! Luckily, through my 7 a.m. usual breakfasting and blog scrolling, I came across posts by What a Nerd Girl Says and The Perpetual Page Turner. The lovely ladies discuss their reading history and the books that turned them into the bookworms they are today. I’m very sentimental, so naturally I love this stuff and thought it was a nice way to introduce myself.

The Early Ages (3-6 years old)

Early Ages

Although as a child, I was a certified pathological liar, I wasn’t necessarily a reader. I hardly owned any physical books, instead I was told stories. Well, I begged for them. During the summer holidays I’d cuddle up to my sleepy granddad, right after dinner, and waited for him to transport me to mystical lands. The stories were predominately universal tales, like Fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and One Thousand and One Nights. My fondest memories, involve him incorporating the stuffy weather or an object in his living room to make the experience immersive, till I could taste the sea water or feel the sun beating down on me.

This changed slightly once I entered nursery. I had to find another way to quench my thirst for stories! This is where picture books come into play. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, both had an immersive element that I was drawn to; whether it was colourful illustrations or a song that I repeated till I was blue. I enjoyed feeling like I was on crazy adventures and for that to happen, I need to be completely absorbed into the story.

Primary School (7-10 years old)

Primary school

The first complete novel I read was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. My year 3 teacher lent me the book and I was SUPER DUPER excited.

  1. It was a big girl book.
  2. There were actual chapters.
  3. It had little to no illustrations.

I found a tight spot between our two sofas and nestled up to the radiator and it was bliss! From then on, I didn’t stop reading. I was drawn mainly to the absurd and the hilarious: The Twits, The Witches, Unbelievable and Horrid Henry. If a book had underpants in the title, I’d read it and laugh wholeheartedly at the toilet humour.

Pre-teen (10-12 years old)

JW Era

I call this the Jacqueline Wilson era: Tracy Beaker, Lola Rose, Dustin Baby and Clean Break, were some of my favourites. Let’s just say, I was dedicated. To the point, where my reading and rereading consisted of only Jacqueline Wilson novels. I had found my comfort zone and the characters felt like old friends.

*I even incorporated “bog off” into my vocabulary.

**My parents didn’t approve.

Teenage Years (12-16 years old)

Pre teens

THIS WAS MY PRIME. All I needed was:

  1. A first person narrative.
  2. A female perspective.
  3. A high school setting.

I read hungrily and devoured an average of two books a day. I clearly was not receiving enough homework and had a lot of free time. I think I read every YA romantic series in my school library, and loved The Princess Diaries and Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. I must admit, this wasn’t the most diverse period of my life. Although, I did briefly dabble in dystopia with Rachel Ward’s Numbers, but overall I stuck to the very conventional diary format. Thankfully, the school curriculum varied my reading. I ended up enjoying: Holes and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

A Levels (16-18 years old)
A level

I did take English Literature for A levels and yes, it was painful at times, but it was definitely transformative. I was introduced to a wide range of texts: The Bloody Chamber, King Lear, The World’s Wife and A Streetcar Named Desire. I was introduced to feminist texts, and was taught to read critically and politically. Literature became more than a hobby, but an outlet for expression and protest. I was forced to take a look at my reading and question why it was so limited. I was growing up! (Don’t get me wrong, I still reread Confessions of Georgia Nicolson!)

Currently (19+ years old)

Currently

I can proudly say, my reading is a lot more varied. I mean, I still love a female perspective in a novel, but I’ve evolved a broader interest in storytelling. It could be poetry, plays, short story collection, children’s fiction or memoirs.

Some of my favourites include:

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  •  Wonder
  •  The Rental Heart & Other Stories
  •  A Monster Calls
  • Just Kids

I hope you enjoyed this! What’s your reading history? Did you have any cringe-worthy obsessions? Do tell!!!