While lockdown has given bookworms more time to read, it has been harmful to bookshops across the city. Booksellers rely on people coming to their shops and browsing their shelves, but due to lockdown, they have had to close their doors. Many readers have turned to Amazon to purchase new books during the pandemic as it is cheap and offers next day delivery. However, it's always a delight being able to wander around bookshops and flick through the books in person. If you miss bookshops, you'll be pleased to hear that they'll be opening their doors on Monday 12th April after being shut since the end of last year. Below are 10 of the top independent bookshops in London you can support:
A neighbourhood favourite, West End Lane Books can be found along West End Lane in West Hampstead. It has been around since 1994 and is a family-owned business. Besides selling an impressive selection of books, West End Lane Books also holds free author talks and books launches, as well as reading groups and school events. If you're interested in Jewish culture, politics, fashion, travel, art or science, be sure to pay a visit to West End Lane Books once it opens. There is also a section dedicated to books about London for any tourist who happens to stop by or anyone who is keen to learn more about the area. Not ready to go to shops yet? You can still order books online from West End Lane Books by browsing their titles or filling out a form if you can't find the book you want.
Address: 277 W End Ln, West Hampstead, London NW6 1QS
Situated in a Grade-II building in Conduit Street, Persephone Books is an independent bookshop that is relocating to Bath on April 23rd. However, you can still buy their books online. Persephone Books was founded in 1998 by Nicola Beauman, a journalist and biographer. The shop takes its name from Persephone, the daughter of the Greek God Zeus, who was seen as a symbol of female creativity and new beginnings. Persephone Books sells books written by nineteenth and twentieth-century female writers, such as Virginia Woolf, Noel Streatfield and Frances Hodgson Burnett. The catalogue is comprised of 135 books, ranging from short stories to novels to memoirs to cookery books. What makes the books at Persephone Books stand out is their unique grey dustjackets: as mentioned on the website, Beauman "had a vision of a woman who comes home tired from work, and there is a book waiting for her, and it doesn't matter what it looks like because she knows she will enjoy it." Each book costs £13 and you can find them on the website if you're unable to get to travel to Bath after the end of April.
Address: 59 Lamb's Conduit St, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB (until April 22nd)
Word on the Water has to be the quirkiest bookshop in London. It takes the form of a 1920s barge and floats on the Regent's Canal towpath, a few minutes away from Kings Cross Station and Granary Square. Word on the Water commenced trading in 2011 and previous canal regulations meant that it had to change locations every couple of weeks. Fortunately, the shop has many loyal supporters, so it was able to find a permanent spot. Visitors to Word on the Water will find an array of new and second-hand books that fall into a whole variety of categories, such as classics, poetry and children's books. Prior to the pandemic, Word on the Water became much more than just a bookshop. In the summer, you can expect several musical performances and poetry slams on the barge's rooftop. While the city is still under lockdown you can purchase books on the Word on the Water website.
Address: Regent's Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London N1C 4LW
With 5 stores spread out across London, Daunt Books has made quite a name for itself, and it's considered one of the city's most beloved bookshops. Daunt Books specialises in travel literature, and the books are categorised by continent and country. You'll be able to visit Daunt Books once again next week, but if you're still wary about leaving the house, you can sign up to Daunt Books' subscription service: you'll receive a new book every month, with titles based on your taste. It costs £180 for paperbacks, £320 for hardbacks, £150 for children's books, and £360 for cookery books. Daunt Books also ships orders of over £40 to anywhere in the UK. If you have the chance, pop into the flagship branch of Daunt Books in Marylebone, which has a heavy Instagram presence and is recognisable by its iconic Edwardian features such as an oak gallery and skylight.
Address: various, check the website for your nearest branch
Next on the list, we have Owl Bookshop, which lies on Kentish Town Road in North West London. It opened back in 1974 and caters for both adults and children, with its regular kids' events that include storytime sessions. Readers can choose from a fantastic range of over 20,000 classic and contemporary titles, and relax on a comfortable armchair. Some of the titles available at Owl Bookshop include The Deathless Girls by Kiran O'Farrell, and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. There are plenty of cafes and shops close to Owl Bookshop and it's only a short distance from Camden Market and Regents Canal so you can make a whole afternoon out of it.
Address: 207-209, Kentish Town Rd, Kentish Town, London NW5 2JU
Located quite a way out of central London, in the heart of Herne Hill, Tales on Moon Lane is a multi-award winning children's bookshop that is adored by people in the local area. Passers-by will be enticed by the magical storefront, with a circus tent and light blue paint. The shop is owned by children's author Tamara Farlane, who also runs an online platform for independent publishers and authors that aims to promotes diverse books. Before the pandemic, Tales on Moon Lane was buzzing with activities, such as weekly storytime and Jolly Phonics sessions for younger children. You can support this wonderful bookshop by checking out the store when it opens next week.
Address: 25 Half Moon Ln, Dulwich, London SE24 9JU
Lutyens & Rubinstein can be found in Notting Hill, which is known for its unique independent shops. It was founded in 2009 by literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein, who "believe that the discerning reader of any age is hungry for an alternative to the homogeneity of the chains and the anonymity of online booksellers". Lutyens & Rubinstein is the type of bookshop where you can easily lose track of time: there are plenty of comfortable places to sit, and you can cosy up with a book and a cup of tea or coffee. The book selection is recommended by readers, writers and publishing professionals. Lutyens & Rubinstein also sells own-branded bags, stationery, cards, paperweights, homemade preserves and pictures by Hugo Guinness and Serge Seidlitz.
Address: 21 Kensington Park Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2EU
No bookworm can visit London and not check out Hatchards. This bookshop was established in 1797 by publisher John Hatchard and is considered London's most prestigious store. Hatchards has occupied the same spot in Piccadilly for over 200 years and was apparently Oscar Wilde's favourite bookshop, so you can tell it's somewhere definitely worth visiting. It may be currently owned by Waterstones, but Hatchards still maintains its independent bookshop feels. When you arrive at Hatchards, you'll be spoilt for choice: the shop is spread out over 4 floors and houses around 100,000 books, with first editions from the likes of D. H. Lawrence and Margaret Atwood lining the shelves, as well as books on pretty much any other subject imaginable. Hatchards posts books in the UK and worldwide, and you can opt for their free gift-wrapping service if you've got someone's birthday coming up.
Address: 187 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LE
9. Walden Books
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Walden Books is a true hidden gem. Based in Camden, Walden Books first opened its doors back in 1979, making it one of the oldest bookshops on this list. It's owned by David Tobin and takes its name from a book published by the American essayist Henry Thoreau in 1854. Walden Books has two rooms and over 10,000 books in stock, including paperbacks and poetry. You'll also find a number of books on specialist topics that aren't available in most other bookshops, such as African Art, ALS, Boy Scouts, French Cubism and Imperial Russia. Check out the Walden Books online catalogue for a list of titles. Walden Books is situated residential street about 10 minutes from Camden Station and is adorned with a wisteria vine, making it hard to miss.
Address: Walden Books, 38 Harmood St, London NW1 8DP
10. Highgate Bookshop
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Also located in North London is Highgate Bookshop. This shop may be on the small side, but it stocks everything from fiction to travel to philosophy to gardening, so if there's something for everyone. Much like in bigger bookshops, Highgate Bookshop has shelves specifically for bestselling novels, classic, general fiction and non-fiction. Highgate Bookshop is a great place to spend a weekend afternoon post-lockdown if you want to avoid the crowds that swarm central London, and it's practically right next to Waterlow Park, so you can take a wander through the park after you've finished browsing the books.
Address: 9 Highgate High St, Highgate, London N6 5JR