Sunday, 15 April 2012


I've never written about bookshops! How very remiss. Especially considering that I was recently moaning about the death of the book.

Remember what happened to Our Price? Imagine what would it be like if you could never go into a bookshop again. If your browsing experience was confined to searching on Amazon. Bah...

I picked up this lovely map today, which is also a lovely website - a map of all the independent bookshops in London.

Interestingly, the pins showing indie bookshops also represent places you might actually like to live in London. You could probably write a thesis on the correlation of these two things.

Below are some of my favourites.


Freedom Bookshop
down Angel Alley, Whitechapel
Anarchists! That is all.

The Broadway Bookshop
Tiny but pretty bookshop in Broadway Market. Also sells local artists' work and has a little cubby hole under the stairs with interesting old books.

When we were doing the Freud exhibition we used to meet around the corner from the museum in the Camden Arts Centre, their bookshop is packed full of beautiful art and design works.

A moment's remembrance of the long-gone beloved Compendium books in Camden High Street, everything an indie bookshop should be, a portal to alternative, radical ideas & grownup life.

I still love the enormous Waterstones (formerly Dillons) on Gower Street. Especially the secondhand section upstairs. There's a little corner seat with cushions where you can sit and read, or just look out the window at the passing scene in Bloomsbury. Criminally they have piled it up with boxes of books at the moment, tsk.

This is a cavernous second-hand place tucked away downstairs at the back of the Brunswick Centre. It is awesomely awesome. Lost hours in there. They also buy your books.

Comics and graphic novels and the best selection of the most beautiful children's picture books ever. They moved from Holborn to Berwick Street. It is quite dangerous in there.

Plus all of the secondhand places along Charing Cross Road and the expensive but lovely rare books in Cecil Court.

Lutyens and Rubenstein
This is a beautiful shop in Notting Hill, with an art gallery downstairs. When I walked in I immediately saw 3 books I had been looking for and wanting, always a good sign. They also give you a nice cloth bag with their design on.

Where are your favourites? They don't have to be in London, clearly.


  1. In the right place this time:

    That map is my wallpaper. Literally, not on my computer. I have several copies, glued next to each other on the wall.

    Gosh is lovely. but my favourite bookshop in London is and will always be Daunt on Marylebone lane. I do not give a damn how middle class and popular it becomes, how many big corporations own a stake in it, nor whatever else happens. It's a beautiful space, populated by a great variety of books and staffed by people who love them.

  2. Orwell wrote an essay about the ideal London pub, the sting being that it didn't really exist: he identified about 10 things that a perfect pub needed to possess, and he could find at most eight in one place. Maybe we should do the same for bookshops. 1. Lots of comfy chairs, with at least three people snoozing quietly in them; 2. No Paulo Coelho...

  3. Yes, Daunt! How did I forget? I'm not there very much as it's quite far, but it is great.

    Tim, I like his article. "possessing neither a radio nor a piano" - bless!

    (This reminds me of when I worked in bookshops - when I started they begged me to bring in my own music as they were so sick of the tapes they had. I didn't, because I liked my music and didn't want to associate it with work. I remember the manager used to go mad when a fifties album was playing and it came to one called 'The House of Bamboo', he'd heard it so many times it was torture.)

    So maybe number 3 should be no music, if only for the staff.

    4. Lots of dog-earned Penguin paperbacks for less than £2.00 for me to rifle through.

  4. I moved to San Francisco for the book trade. Lots of independents/second hands have since been swallowed whole by Amaz... I mean Powell's - aka Moby Dick. It circles a struggling neighborhood store and makes the owner an offer for the entire stock and down from Portland comes the truck, away trundle all the books and the little store closes. People love Powell's.Hipsters especially.

  5. Boo! Boo! I do like their website though, with author interviews etc.

  6. "Hipsters especially."

    Well, that says it all, really. Hipsters can go fuck themselves.

    (Apologies for the bad language).