This post has been languishing in my drafts for far too long, so voilà! (Perfectionism-induced procrastination, begone!) England is a marvelous place for varied reasons, but, as an English Literature major, I must conclude that its rich literary history ranks among its finest, most distinguished qualities. In this post, I will share a selection of some delightful London bookshops that I discovered whilst studying abroad in May!
In absolute seriousness, as soon as I walked in the door of Persephone Books, glanced at the aesthetically appealing shelves brimming with female authors, and heard a jazz vinyl softly playing in the background, I wanted to march up to the kind, aproned woman (Phoebe, as I later learned) and beg her to let me reside there. I had wanted to visit this bookstore for years and still was not fully prepared for the wonder that is Persephone Books; you simply must go and experience the magic for yourself. Persephone Books is run by only a handful of inspiring women who operate the bookstore and the publishing company (hence the incredibly beautiful robin egg blue covers in their store). Also, the workers stop for tea and cake every day at precisely 4 o’clock. Are you charmed yet?
Word on the Water
This bookstore is located in the Regent’s Canal area of London, which is quite beautiful! My friend and I picked up a book apiece here and then meandered down the canal, sat on the grassy steps, and ate a small snack in the sunshine! I found this “bookbarge” (as it is affectionately known) immensely soothing; as you peruse their literary selection, the boat slowly rocks back and forth. There are books everywhere — both inside and out! The novels here were varied between current New York Times bestsellers as well as classics, non-fiction as well as colorful children’s books and YA dystopian thrillers. The books all seemed to be fairly-priced and, with your purchase, you are supporting the two older men that run the thriving business within the 1920s Dutch barge, one educated at Oxford and the other an English Literature major! (Maybe I’m a tad biased, but that’s still neat.)
Charing Cross Rd. & Cecil Court
Charing Cross Rd. is located near Trafalgar Square and is an avenue renowned for its host of secondhand bookstores. Just a few of the more notable ones include Any Amount of Books, Quinto Books, and Henry Pordes Books. My friends and I didn’t discover any particularly spectacular finds on our visit, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves anyway! Cecil Court is a side street branching off of Charing Cross Rd. that contains shops specializing in antiquarian books, such as Marchpane or Goldsboro Books.
Southbank Centre Book Market
This gem was a completely unexpected find! On our way to a showing of Translations (based on the novel by Brian Friel and featuring Colin Morgan) at the National Theatre, I suddenly glanced to my left and skidded to an abrupt stop, jaw agape. The scene looked like a snapshot of Paris, of bouquinistes by the Seine. Obviously, I fell in love instantly. Greatly bereaved, my friends had to drag me away from the bounty as we needed to enter the theatre on time for the production. Hopefully you will have better luck and possess sufficient time to browse the emerald stalls brimming with bargain books! This book market is novelly tucked away underneath Waterloo Bridge on the Queen’s Walk, open every day, rain or shine, until 7:00 pm! All was not bleak for me on that fateful day, however, as The National Theatre’s gift shop had a host of Macbeth items that I then proceeded to gush over.
Daunt Books (Marylebone)
Architecturally, this was, without a doubt, one of the most stunning bookstores I have ever seen, rivaled only by Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. I felt like I’d been transported back in time: back to when the Marylebone location of Daunt Books first opened in 1912 as the first custom-built bookshop in the world. The Edwardian premises have been remarkably well-preserved and, intriguingly, the books in Daunt are arranged principally by country, regardless of the nature of the book — fiction or non-fiction, biography, history, or novel. Daunt Books is truly a treat! However, I will say that their selection is not as captivating as its stained glass and soaring gallery ceilings; I would equate it to the Brits’ Waterstones or our Barnes & Noble. (This is definitely not the place to venture to if you enjoy scrounging for antique, used treasures.)