Sunday, 6 July 2014

IBW Bookshop Crawl

The past week has been Independent Bookseller’s Week, and to celebrate it, I went on a bookshop crawl across London, with my friend Ayomide from ElliesAndPankcakes. So here is my guide to some of the finest London independent bookshops. But quickly, let’s talk about independents.

What is Independent Booksellers Week?
The week was part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and is to celebrate independent booksellers.

Why are Independent Booksellers important?
I could go into a boring essay about economics and the free market, but nobody wants to read about that. There is more to it than Amazon killing bookstores. One thing I learnt from the crawl is how different the atmosphere and feel of an independent is compared to a commercial retailer. Every space crammed with old and new books, an independent radiates the love of a good story. I could have easily spent hours there browsing new treasures. If book buying wants to remain an experience, then independents need to stick around.

The Crawl

Any Amount of Books
“Any Amount of Books” was our first stop, and was almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of books that was present. As far as the eye could see, there were books. This was a bookshop I could imagine discovering an unexpected find, or a really nice edition of a beloved book.

Good for: Cheap and Rare books (their range is from £1 to thousands of pounds), Leather Bound and Decorative Books, Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction
Bad for: Mainstream and Young Adult fiction
Tube station: Leicester Square/ Tottenham Court Road

Henry Pordes Books
We were greeted by a friendly manager when we asked about IBW. Like “Any Amount of Books”, they sold all sorts of books, once again lined to the ceiling. I can imagine this shop would be useful if you wanted to do specific research on a topic, as they had an impressive non-fiction selection.

Good for: Non-fiction, Literary Fiction, Rare books
Bad for: Mainstream and Young Adult fiction
Tube station: Leicester Square/ Tottenham Court Road

The mother of London independents, Foyles has long been one of my favourite bookshop in London. However, this was my first visit since their move and refurbishment, so I was excited to see the new store. Foyles lacks the cosy feel of other independents (the new regeneration looks like a bookstore from the future) but makes up with sheer range and variety of books. It’s easy to spend hours there.

Good for: Everything. You can find everything in Foyles. Mainstream and YA is particularly good here.
Bad for: Lacks the quaintness of other shops.
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road

Full disclosure here, when I arrived in Hatchards I thought it was an independent. When I picked up the only book I was going to buy, I thought it was an independent. When I went to the till and discussed IBW, I found out it was NOT an independent. Irony at its finest. A quick Wikipedia search revealed that Hatchards was bought by Waterstones in the 90’s. However, it is a lovely bookshop, and if you fancy a look around I highly recommend.

Good for: Everything, like Foyles it has quite a range.
Bad for: Secretly not an independent!
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly/ Green Park

Heywood Hill
I hadn’t heard of this bookshop until I saw someone tweet about it on the day, and it was a great discovery. A world unto itself, minutes away from bustling Piccadilly, and tucked away on a quiet street, Heywood Hill has an enchanting atmosphere. Excellent rooms divided into genres, from the mainstream fiction as you walk in, to rare books, to my favourite room of all, the children’s room. This bookshop is a must-go if you love children’s and YA, the room even has a fireplace and fairy lights!

Good for: I saw a real range of books here. They specifically select new book to put out, so if you don’t have anything specific in mind, you’ll find something good here.
Bad for: If you have a specific book in mind, it may not be here.
Tube station: Green Park

Daunts Books
For some reason, Daunts always reminds me of Harry Potter. Not sure if it’s the wooden dĂ©cor, or the piles of books, or the dim library, but I always get a sense that I’m in the Hogwarts library. Daunts seems to find the perfect balance between cosy and spacious, there are loads of recommendations and interesting finds, but the shop avoids feeling cramped. Then there is the upstairs, a balcony area around the shop, stacked with non-fiction books. Also makes a great photo-op!

Good For: Everything, great selection, great atmosphere. There’s also an interesting section organised by countries around the world.
Bad for: Struggling to think of anything…
Tube station: Baker Street

What did I buy?
OK, confession, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything before I went, because my TBR pile is big enough. That didn’t work out. I bought A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness for two reasons:  one, I love Patrick Ness, and two, A Monster Calls is a book which needs to be read as a physical book. It wasn’t something I could download on my kindle, I had to get in book form.

So there’s my bookshop crawl! Thanks to Ayomide for accompanying me, and check out her channel. I was going to film this, but I feared breaking the atmosphere by talking very loudly to a camera by myself. All my photos are from my Instagram, so for more bookish pictures, give me follow. Did you do a bookshop crawl? What are your favourite independents? Tell me below.

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