In an age where you can pop online and order books to your house in just a few clicks, bookshops often become forgotten. Personally, there’s nothing more satisfying to me on a day off but to have a wander round a bookshop, reading the blurbs and choosing my new read. London has a vast collection of must-see independent bookshops perfect for this. Situated all across the city in beautiful locations, selling both old and new books, they range from barges, under bridges to some of the most gorgeous London boroughs. Here’s a look at some of my current favourites!
Daunt Books – Marylebone High St
If you were to ask a Londoner for a bookshop recommendation, Daunt Books would most likely be the first to be mentioned. When I was searching for places to go, it was the top of my list. Of course, it didn’t let me down. Although they actually have six locations dotted over London, the Marylebone High St store is the original.
The building was completed in 1912 as an antiquarian bookshop called Francis Edwards, which was then bought in 1990 when James Daunt founded Daunt Books. The shop boasts long oak galleries full of books, leading the eye towards the beautiful arched stained-glass window. As Daunt Books traditionally specialises in travel, the books are mostly organised by country with all genres mixed together, allowing a wonderful browsing experience for both travelers and your typical reader.
They host a number of book events and signings so always be sure to check them out. In 2010, they also became a publisher, both reissuing old, lost classics and fresh, debut reads.
84 Marylebone High Street
Marylebone, W1U 4QW
9am – 7:30pm
Word on the Water – Kings Cross
Located by Granary Square in King’s Cross, is a 1920s Dutch barge turned floating bookshop, stocking old and new books alike. This shop turns buying books into an experience, with music playing, a place to sit and often your local friendly dog walking around, as well as an occasional live jazz performance.
Dealing with the same problems your average bookshop faces, such as online retailers, hasn’t been the only issues they’ve had to overcome. Due to being a barge, canal authorities forced them to move every two weeks, and of course the ever present risk of flooding. Although previously travelling along Regent’s Canal, it has now taken up permanent residence by Granary Square, King’s Cross.
Check their Facebook page for details of book talks and events.
Regent’s Canal Towpath,
Kings Cross, London, N1C 4BZ
South Bank Book Market
Tucked under the Waterloo bridge on the Southbank is a long row of tables; with books laid upon it. Ranging from Ye Olde Classics and first editions, to Sci-Fi, to Biography; you are going to find yourself a new read. The South Bank Book Market is known to be one of London’s best outdoor second-hand and antique markets, and if you choose the day right, you may find an extensive collection of comics, maps and prints too.
337-338 Belvedere Road,
South Bank, London, SE1 9PX
Gay’s The Word – Bloomsbury
On 17 January 1979, members of Gay Icebreakers – a socialist LGBT group – founded Gay’s the Word, after being inspired by the growing number of lesbian and gay bookstores in America. Since then, the store has become an archive of queer literature, ready at your fingertips. It is host to many groups including TransLondon and a lesbian reading group; which has helped the shop to survive with the rise of ebooks, online book sales and mainstream bookshops now providing an LGBTQ+ section.
Store manager Jim MacSweeney recently spoke to i-D about the challenges they’ve faced, including many acts of vandalism and only last year their window being smashed. However, amongst these awful attacks, there is a community ready to show love. The window smashing incident being proof of that. After the image went viral, the shop was inundated with bouquets of flowers and apologies. “My irritation and distress just changed into the joy of being held by these people, who were giving us this outpouring of love.” (Read the full article here.)
66 Marchmont Street,
London, WC1N 1AB
Mon-Sat – 10am-6:30pm
Sunday – 2-6pm