I have done the best thing ever and you should all do it – I visited my friend Alys in London and she and I went on a bookshop crawl. (Like a pub crawl, but with books instead of booze.)
We met at St Pancras Station and walked to all of the shops we visited, so we didn’t have to spend any extra money on public transport. (Until it was time to go back to the station, by which time our feet were dying.) We aimed to go to Skoob first but on the way we noticed a bookshop called Gay’s the Word (sadly they don’t seem to have a website) so decided to have a quick look.
I thought this was a really good little shop. It’s not big but it’s got good variety and the books are presented really well. It’s a quiet little part of London too, which was very welcome on the Saturday immediately after Black Friday. In here, I finally treated myself to Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becki Albertalli.
From Goodreads: “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.”
Next, we went to Skoob, which is a secondhand bookshop that has received a lot of praise so I was expecting this to be my favourite shop – but I was a bit disappointed. They have a LOT of books but they are mostly just stuffed on to shelves, without many covers on display and no recommended reads from the staff. I got a bit frustrated in there because there were loads of books and it was just impossible to browse the shelves properly. It was still a nice bookshop and cheap, being secondhand, but I do prefer to have a little displays of books to give me an idea of what to buy.
I did find Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi, which I read a little while ago as an ebook but wanted a physical copy of, and Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter as I really want to get back into poetry. I used to read a lot of it when I was younger but over the last few years I’ve forgotten about it. Having heard good things about this book, I’m hoping it will reignite my interest.
The hardback of Nina Is Not OK is stunning, by the way. The dust jacket is really shiny and gold and then, when you take it off, the actual book is this lovely duck-egg blue.
We then walked through Russell Square to The London Review Bookshop. I wasn’t expecting much – I thought it’d be a lot of anthology books and magazines and things – but it turned out to be my favourite of the independent ones we visited. (There’s also a craft shop right next door that made us really happy.)
Everything was nicely laid out with a good balance of books on display and rows of books on shelves, plus a really lovely children’s, poetry and graphic novel section downstairs. (You can also get cake but I’m ill and unable to eat sugar at the moment so can’t tell you if they’re any good. I’m sure they probably are, though!)
I bought some of the Penguin little black books here: The Stolen White Elephant by Mark Twain, Circles of Hell by Dante Alighieri and Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling, which Alys recommended to me.
After all these lovely little independent stores, the capitalist giants were calling to me so we walked to Charing Cross for Foyles and Waterstones. And so it was goodbye to calm, quiet London and HELLO crazy maniacs who drive into you and swerve around you and just stop in the middle of the street so you bump into them.
This was my first ever foray into Foyles and I am converted! (Not that I didn’t expect to love it anyway.) I did really love it, but didn’t buy much because I knew the books would be the same price in Waterstones and I wanted to use my loyalty card. (I have a Foyles loyalty card but left it in Nottingham… oops. Plus they don’t give you £10 when you’ve collected enough stamps!) I did buy another a little black book: selected poems by Emily Bronte.
I didn’t think much to the Waterstones in Covent Garden! It was lovely, but compared to the other branches I’ve been to, not very special. It didn’t have the ‘beautiful books’ section that I love and it was quite hard to work out which section to look for certain books in because they were all a bit vague and not set out very well. In the end I happened on most of the books I was looking for by chance.
I bought Angela Carter’s Book of Fairytales, which I’ve wanted for ages because LOOK AT THAT COVER. I also got a series of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I’ve already read but wanted this particular edition to match my copy of Jane Eyre.
Before getting the train home, I nipped across to King’s Cross to go to their Harry Potter shop. I didn’t buy any books in there but I did get a mug – it starts out plain then, when you pour water in it, changes to an image of the Marauder’s Map.
I had a brilliant day and would definitely do this again. I’m always happy to visit London but would like to do it elsewhere – I’ve heard Edinburgh is essentially built of bookshops so I think that’s my next goal.
Thanks for stopping by!