“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the RyeHolden Caulfield’s character in The Catcher in the Rye sums it up pretty well when he talks about the satisfaction one gets from reading a really good book. He also covers the plight of the reader who then goes in search of more books that will continue to make them feel that joy and exuberance of having been a part of something beautiful.
A true booklover understands the chase, will spend hours scouring bookstores for that one particular edition, will be aware of all the ongoing sales in order to support their book habit, and will value every purchase. There is no greater joy than owning more books than you can read, a guarantee that you have something for every mood or circumstance.
London offers an abundance of choices for every kind of bookworm, whether you’re looking for classics or the latest bestsellers.
Here’s a compilation of some of the bookshops you should check out when in London.
Step into this Edwardian bookshop and marvel at its beautiful oak balconies, stained glass windows and countless rows of books that range from guide books and maps to books about history and politics. Instead of being arranged alphabetically, the books are organized by country, giving the browser a unique browsing experience. The bookstore represents popular countries like France, Italy, the United States and Britain, and many other destinations as well.
Apart from being the go-to bookstore for all things travel-related, Daunt also stocks literary fiction books, biographies, gardening books and much more.
Spread out over six massive floors of books and containing over 200,000 titles, Waterstones Piccadilly is considered to be the largest bookstore in London. Established in the 1930s, the art deco building used to be a department store, but now it is much more than just a bookstore.
Apart from displaying a fantastic collection of books, Waterstones also conducts book signings by famous authors, writing workshops and much more. The shop also has its own book club that you could join.
This London bookshop is renowned all over the world. It covers five floors and contains over 200,000 titles. The bookstore even houses an art gallery, auditorium and jazz café, making this quite a unique experience. It is one of the largest bookstores in the area and also hosts literary events and other activities.
If you love books, then this bookshop should definitely be on your list of stores to visit when in London.
Edward Stanford, who was the founder of Stanfords, was initially a map seller when he started out in 1853. Today, Stanfords is the go-to place to find anything travel-related; this includes maps, travel guides, books on travel, beautiful atlases, travel accessories and even hand-made globes.
One of the interesting features they offer is site-specific digital mapping that can be custom-made for you. The décor in the store will inspire you to travel too; even the floors are covered in maps. They also have a café where you can sit and enjoy some tea and cake while you browse through your most recent purchases.
If you enjoy finding books that have been previously loved, then you should check out the Oxfam Bookshop. It is considered to be the most popular second-hand bookstore in Europe, with hundreds of bookstores in the UK. The store is known for stocking virtually any type of book from classics to more contemporary fiction novels, ensuring that there is something for every kind of reader. The books are all in good condition and are available at very affordable rates, making it a paradise for booklovers.
All the books that you will find in an Oxfam bookstore have been directly donated by the public and all profits go towards supporting the work that Oxfam does.
Koenig Books is an independent bookstore that specializes in all things art. This is a German-owned bookstore that has one of its London branches at the Serpentine Gallery. So if you are an art lover and an avid reader, visiting this bookstore will be quite an enriching experience.
Take your time wandering about as you explore the art gallery and then check out the bookstore to have a look at their massive collection of books on art, architecture and photography.
If you love sci-fi and fiction, then you’re going to love visiting Forbidden Planet. One of the biggest comic book chains, this bookstore is a treasure trove of comics, novels, manga, video games, toys, DVDs, collectibles and other interesting merchandise. So regardless of whether you’re on the lookout for action figures or rare comics, this is the place for you. If you’re lucky you might find some books that have been signed by the author.
Lutyens & Rubinstein
This unique bookstore was started by a couple of literary agents who wanted to share the best that the literary world had to offer. Here you will find an interesting collection of non-fiction and fiction books for adults and kids. The store also has a beautiful collection of book on poetry and art. Every book in the store has been recommended by a writer, friend or publishing contact, so you will definitely be spoilt for choice when you visit.
The store also sells some of their own branded merchandise like bags, stationery, pictures and more.
Located in Central London’s West End, Goldsboro Books is a brilliant bookshop that stocks rare first editions and books that have been signed by their authors. This is the only bookstore to have signed copies of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by J.K. Rowling.
Browse through a beautiful collection of first editions that have been lovingly stored in protective clear film to keep them from ageing. The books in this bookshop are sure to inspire you and make you want to read even more.
This bookshop was established in 1998 by Nicola Beauman. Beauman wanted to publish books that were ‘lost’ or had gone out of print. The name of the bookstore was chosen because it represented female creativity and was also symbolic of new beginnings.
What started as a bookstore in a basement eventually expanded to its current location in Bloomsbury. The store is known for showcasing female writers whose work might not be available elsewhere. While Persephone Books has a modest collection, it covers short stories, novels, diaries, cookery books, memoirs and much more. All the books that are sold here have an elegant grey cover that matches the décor and sensibilities of the store.
Gosh has a reputation for being the best place to find comics in London. Add to your own collection or pick them up as presents for friends or family members.
This store is located in the heart of London, in Soho. They stock everything from comics, novels and graphic novels to manga and so much more, giving you plenty of options to choose from.
If you like scouring through second-hand bookstores looking for buried treasure, then you simply must check out Skoob Books. With over 55,000 books squeezed into a 2000 sqft space, this bookshop proudly displays towers of books. Browse through the wide collection of books on Politics, Philosophy, Literature, Art and so many more subjects.
Book & Comic Exchange
Located in Notting Hill, Book & Comic Exchange is one of the oldest chains of second-hand bookstores in the UK. There is no space to squander – every available nook and cranny has been used as storage space for its wide collection of books.
The books range from poetry to fiction and also feature plays, comics, magazines and more. If you love a good bargain then you should definitely go down to the basement, where you will find hundreds of books for 50p or less. You are sure to walk away with more books than you can carry.
Books for Cooks
This adorable little bookstore-cum-café is the go-to place for all things culinary. Whether you’re a fan of home baking or a certified chef, you will thoroughly enjoy browsing through the books on offer. As you can imagine, the café is known for its changing menu and particularly its wide selection of pastries. If you’re a foodie and a booklover, this will be a special slice of heaven.
Looking through hundreds and thousands of books to find the ones you’re looking for can be an exhausting process. Nomad Books offers you the option to take a break and enjoy a meal and a drink while you browse through their collection. The food and the books are reasonably priced, making this a great choice for those who can spend hours in a bookshop.
This is easily one of the nicest bookshops for art in the city. The ICA Shop is located within the Institute of Contemporary Arts and has an interesting collection of books on feminism, philosophy, art, cinema, sound, and culture. The prices are affordable and you will also find some items that are exclusive to ICA. All proceeds go towards supporting the ICA program.
London Art Book Fair
While the London Art Book Fair isn’t technically a bookstore, it deserves a mention for being one of the biggest independent art book fairs in the world. It is held at the Whitechapel Gallery and is open to the public. The great thing about the book fair is that you will find work by over 90 independent publishers and be able to browse through their publications. You can also attend one of the talks, workshop or book signings that are held here.
One of the oldest bookstores in London, Hatchards is located a short walk from Piccadilly Circus and was established in 1797. Famous authors like Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Lord Byron have walked through its doors. Go back in time as you wander across its lush carpeted floor and peruse its collection of classics and signed copies. Visiting Hatchards is truly a beautiful experience.
This small little store is a hidden gem that will make you feel like Alice in Wonderland as you wander through and discover old volumes of forgotten books. The store used to specialize in books on children’s literature but has expanded to include a mix of poetry, history, fantasy and anything else you might fancy.
Though tiny, the store boasts of a beautiful collection of hard-bound editions that will surely take your breath away.
Gay's the Word
If you’re looking for a specialty store that focuses of topics related to gender and sexuality then you must visit Gay’s the Word. This bookstore boasts a wide collection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature. You will also find collections of literary fiction, crime novels, romance novels and books on erotica. The store was founded in 1979 and renowned poet Allen Ginsberg has done readings here. More recently, Stella Duffy and Alan Hollinghurst have also read their work in the store.
What’s your favourite London bookshop? Let us know in the comments!