Recently, I met up with two friends from my old university, intending to catch up and wander a little bit. That “wander” turned out to be a trip to every bookshop within the area — and there are quite a few within walking distance of each other. So if you have an afternoon to spare (and a little money if you, like me, are prone to buying more books than you can read), then stop by some — or all — of these book nooks in London!
We started the afternoon at Skoob, a secondhand bookshop near Russell Square. Every nook and cranny in this place is filled with books of all sorts; I could have spent the whole day just there. They also have a student discount until the end of October, so stop by quick if you’re eligible!
Here’s how well I did:
- Willpower: broken
- Books bought: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
- Excuses: nostalgia (I enjoyed Riordan’s books in younger years)
- I liked the Percy Jackson/Lost Hero series, and haven’t read the Kane series yet
- I am internally about 10 years old
- The Masterpieces of Shirley Jackson
- Excuses: Halloween is coming up and I wanted some spooky reads
- It will photograph well for my Instagram (Did you know I have a bookstagram? *shameless promotion*)
- Student discount!
Yes, one of each, please
2. London Review Bookshop
Next up, we headed to London Review Bookshop. There is a quaint little cake shop attached to this one (which may or may not have been one of our main incentives to meet up). After a bit of cake and tea, we took a quick look around the actual bookshop.
- Willpower: sustained (with some difficulty; they have signed copies of several books). My friends caved though!
3. Oxfam Bookshop
After that, we walked over to Oxfam. This particular one is on Bloomsbury Street, and has Oxfam’s usual mix of books, CDs, old magazines and papers, and pretty much everything in between. They also have books in different languages, which leads me to my stats:
- Willpower: shattered once again
- Book bought: La Fête du Poitron (Halloween Party) by Agatha Christie, translated by Claire Durivaux
- Excuses: I want to practise my French
- The story is about Halloween (see above point about spooky reads)
Before I could spend too much money here, we headed off to Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road. A giant two-storey shop, this one is a double-edged sword with both books and stationary — which basically doubled my chances of spending money. We spent some time admiring the different collections, which have some impossibly beautiful covers.
Again, one of each please
They also have a clearance section with discounted books. I nearly bought a damaged copy of It by Stephen King here, but managed to resist for some mysterious reason (possibly because one of my friends told me she cried by the end of the first chapter).
Willpower: almost wavered, but managed to hold it together because I’m a scaredy-cat
Our next stop: Foyles on Charring Cross Road. If the vast and expansive Waterstones is the opposite of a nook, this shop is as much a nook as it is a potato. It has six storeys worth of books — good luck getting out of there unscathed.
Foyles also offers a student discount. I caved the last time I was there, so this time I held it together in an effort to redeem myself by proving that I have some semblance of self-control.
- Willpower: Hunted down a book I really wanted to get… then walked away
6. Henry Pordes Books
Finally, we made our way to Henry Pordes Books, which has secondhand books as well as rare and first editions. I got totally absorbed in the fantasy section before I could explore the whole shop properly… so I’ll probably be going back at some point.
- Willpower: Sustained for now
That ends our walking tour of bookshops! If you’re planning to embark on one of your own, I recommend bringing a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a sizeable bag to carry your newest acquisitions (and a pair of stretchy trousers if you’re also going for the cake).
Let me know: what and where your favourite book nook? Have you been to any of these before, or are you planning to visit sometime?
Thank you for reading, and until next time!
A few years ago, there was a Facebook tag going around, asking people to name ten books that influenced them. I was looking back on the choices made by 18-year-old me and thought I’d share them with you, with some thoughts from present me!
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern [Fantasy]
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually finished reading this. I must’ve been reading it around the time I made this list, but I definitely haven’t read enough to have the book influence me much. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed what I read, and hope to return to it soon.
2. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller [Play]
I’m quite sure I cried at the end of this, and any story that can evoke that much emotion is definitely an influencer for me. I remember being fascinated by the complexity of the main character — I wrote a blog post about him, if you’re interested. (Don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free!)
3. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling [Fantasy/Children’s fiction]
If you’ve been around here long (at least five seconds) you might’ve noticed that I like Harry Potter. This series truly has been inspiring to me — it fostered not only my love of books and writing, but also stands as an example of what happens when you refuse to give up.
London is, unsurprisingly, steeped in literary and publishing history. Last week, I had the chance to go on a walking tour around some spots featured in various pieces of literature, or ones that were integral to the city’s legacy of publishing.
I thought I would share what I learnt with you! Before we begin, please put your seatbelt on and do not stick your head out of the windows at any point during the tour. First stop…
…the Free Word Centre, which describes itself as a hub for literature and free expression. Just nearby is 37a Clerkenwell Green, where Lenin published for a time.
37a Clerkenwell Green (the red door)
Fun fact: The name ‘Clerkenwell’ comes from Clerks’ Well, where mystery plays were performed in the Middle Ages. The word ‘clerk’ comes from Middle English, and defines a literate person or clergyman. (All this was related on the tour, but can also be found on Wikipedia.) Read More