Who doesn’t love moseying around bookshops? Perusing shelves packed with books, resting your weary limbs in the nearest and squishiest armchair, then leaving laden down with beautiful tomes to pore over when you get home. We’re getting misty eyed at the thought of it.
Anyway, if you didn’t know, today is July 4th. To many, it’s Independence Day. To us, it’s INDEPENDENT’S DAY (admire the subtlety of what we’ve done there folks. To read more about Independent Booksellers Week, head here.) We’ve taken a moment to praise the independent bookshop, and below are three examples of our favourites.
If you have a suggestion or would like to contribute to the blog, please tweet us or comment below. Tell us about your favourites, we want to hear about bookshops in farflung places, tiny bookshops that few people know about, or simply a bookshop you love to while away the hours in, wherever it may be.
The Slightly Foxed
123 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4TE
After walking down Gloucester Road, I can’t imagine a sight more
welcome than the dusty blue of the Slightly Foxed awning. If Gloucester Road is
a cultural desert (and it is), then the Slightly Foxed Bookshop is an oasis.
Slightly Foxed published the first issue of their quarterly
literary magazine in 2003, and in 2009 they took over the Gloucester Road
bookshop. It’s an extension of the sensibilities of the magazine – they stock
an eclectic selection of new releases, and all manner of second hand books. It
feels as though they might operate nightclub style one in, one out policy –
there aren’t shelves full of the latest bestsellers, but there’s one each of
the new Pulp the Classics editions, and they sit in the window above Caitlin
Moran, a James Bond novel, and Mark Mason’s Walk
the Lines. Sure, it’s a motley crew, but one that completely makes sense.
It reads like the rest of the collection; intelligent, witty, and clearly
curated by people who love the books they stock. There’s a shelf full of
Slightly Foxed hardbacks – searingly bright wibbalin encases some great
writing. And with only 2000 of each title printed, they’re collectable as well
And downstairs! Oh, downstairs. If you’re a self-indulgent
Penguin employee (and I definitely am) it’s well worth sitting at the bottom of
the steps and looking through all the Penguin Paperbacks. Beyond that – as if
you could need more – there are shelves and shelves of second hand and antique
books – art books, biographies, travel and food writing. It’s all there, and
it’s an abundance of quality and quantity.
I spent about half an hour at Slightly Foxed, just browsing.
It was only when I left that I realised that the two people who worked there
hadn’t interrupted once – I don’t think they cared at all whether we bought anything;
they were just pleased to see people paying their books so much attention.
Slightly Foxed pitch their magazine as ‘the real reader’s
quarterly’. The Slightly Foxed Bookshop is the real reader’s bookshop.
By Kirsty Taylor, Acting Assistant Editor | @EditorialGirls
Book & Kitchen
31 All Saints
Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 1HE
I only recently discovered Book & Kitchen whilst
wandering around the streets just off Portobello Road one weekend. I have just
moved into a new flat there and was trying to scope out the charms of the local
area – not exactly challenging in Notting Hill, you’ll agree (yep, I’m already
a smug West Londoner).
The store has a strange but balanced composite of
aesthetics; bright contemporary colours and modishly upholstered armchairs share
space with a fully functioning vintage typewriter and record player whose
needle wobbles and crackles over an old vinyl.
The spirit and energy is immediately evident, not only from
the décor, but the staff as well. Book & Kitchen’s owner and front of
house, Muna Khogali, is super friendly and passionate about what she’s doing
and could no doubt hand sell every book in the store with her enthusiasm. Plus
she’ll also make you a coffee and a slice of cake downstairs! When was the last
time that happened when you were browsing in [name redacted for legal reasons].
That’s the ‘kitchen’ bit in the name by the way, just in case, you know, you
were thinking they also sold splash backs and graphite worktops.
What I like most is that the books are allowed to showcase
themselves. There are no shouty sales promotions or merchandising that makes
you immediately aware of the publishers (yes, I fully realise the hypocrisy
here). It is assumed that you know what you are looking for, and if not, you
are given as much time as you need to discover something new. 31
All Saints Rd, W11. Be about
By Joe Yule, Marketing Executive | @Joe_Christmas
Pages of Hackney
70 Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, London E5 0RN
A little like Joe (see above), when I first moved to the part of London I now call home, I spent (and still spend) an inordinate amount of time wandering about the place, often lost. It was on one of these adventures that I stumbled across Pages of Hackney. Attractive exterior: check. Local notices in the window: check. Wonderful assortment of books, old and new, plus small dog: check. It is a proper book shop.
If, like me, you’re interested in London’s history, especially the local stuff, there is so much to sink your teeth into. The history books are right in front of you when you go in, and you can find pretty much everything there. I recently bought a great little book on Blake’s London by Iain Sinclair, and a copy of Craig Taylor’s brilliant Londoners for a friend. There are lots of more obscure titles too, but I won’t bore you with them all, you’ll have to go and check the selection out yourself.
Finally, get thee to the basement (a treasure trove of vast proportions) and hats off if you can resist the lure of classic Penguin books and vintage Marvel comics. They run great events in there too. Before I descend into even more hyperbole, here’s why Pages gets my vote:
1. It smells right. New and old book smell = nice.
2. It’s quiet, calming and no-one bothers you if you just want to get your head down and browse (but people are friendly and suitably informed if you fancy a chat).
3. Did I mention Merlin the dog?
By Natalie Williams, Digital Marketing Executive | @natalie_rw
It would be remiss to talk about independent bookshops without mentioning the Paris institution that is Shakespeare and Company. Here’s a post on our On the Strand blog from last year that you may find interesting.