I love all things related to books. When I was little I used to keep a torch hidden under my pillow just so I could continue reading way past my bedtime. I would devour books one after the other and I’d burst into tears after finishing a series. As you can imagine, bookstores and libraries were some of my preferred places to be.
London is a town brimming with literary hide-outs. Massive bookstores, small independent shop, cute cafés with great snuggling areas, or even book markets. When I’m tired and the walls of my apartment start to feel like a prison, I find peace in putting on some comfy clothes and strolling to some of my favourite spots.
And aren’t you lucky I decided to share?
Calder Bookshop Theatre
Among the restaurants, theatres and bike shops of The Cut, there lays one of London’s best kept secrets: Calder Bookshop Theatre. Started in 2001 by publishing legend John Calder, bibliophiles will find everything from Social Sciences to Philosophy and from Acting Theory to plays by the classics and newer fringe hits. They also have a wonderful second hand shelf with incredible deals.
Travelling Through was set up by owner Emma around 4 and a half years ago. It’s the result of a dream to bring books and communities together, creating a space to explore different cultures. Now, this little shop hosts a café in the basement and they hold cultural events like Philosophy Evenings, live music nights, or acting as a space during The Vaults Festival.
The small shop sits in Lower Marsh and has a café in the basement – including a terrace. Ever since I started to visit more local businesses, Travelling Through has become my go-to for travel related books.
Fun Fact: one of her patrons once told her they felt safe when they visited. I can only second the sentiment.
An institution on it’s own, Stanford’s is the centre of the travel literature universe. They’ve recently moved to the heart of Covent Garden and have kept their lovely café. The new venue is slightly smaller, but still an absolute treat to walk around and browse new fiction, unique guides and even marine charts. My personal favourite? The globe and maps sections.
Would I really leave Foyles out of a bookshop list? Of course I wouldn’t. Foyles have a bunch of shops dotted around London, one in Bristol and another one in Birmingham – but here I’m mainly talking about their flagship store in Charing Cross Road.
Spread across 5 floors – including a gorgeous café and art gallery at the top – you will find whatever it is you’re looking for. Languages? Music? Art and design? Obscure crime novels? You’re guaranteed to find it.
The Second Shelf
Anyone with an Instagram account and a vague love for books will have noticed the much needed opening of The Second Shelf, one of London’s newest bookshops.
Founded by Allison Devers, art journalists and rare book dealer, The Second Shelf is the result of ambition. I almost shyly entered her little rare book shop in Soho and was so pleased when she agreed to speak to me. Allison told me how she’d started noticing that most book collectors were men, and that books by female authors tend to go for less. It was time for change.
The Second Shelf is a treasure and a welcome gem in London. In here, you can find unique first editions, learn about female writers and discover new voices. Or simply visit them and get one of their kick-ass feminist bookmarks.
Word on the Water
I couldn’t leave Word on the Water out. A music venue, a boat, a second-hand bookshop, Word on the Water is it’s own little institution and King’s Cross would not be the same without it.
In winter, there’s a roaring fire in the woodburning stove to warm shoppers and book-lovers. They also hold jazz events every month.
Do you agree? Do you know of any other gems? Let me know!