This year has probably been one of the most difficult years in terms of travelling. Due to lockdown being enforced throughout the world, we’ve been forced to confine ourselves to our own homes, which initially may sound like a nightmare to some people. After experiencing what it feels like to embrace and enjoy new cultures and destinations, how can we ever find ourselves content in our own backyard? But we always try to find the positive light in every dark situation, and as we’ve discussed in our previous post on lockdown literature, this pandemic has provided us with the time and energy we’ve all needed to get down to some serious reading.
In this article we’ve decided to compile a list of some of our favourite independent bookstores in London that will provide you with a mountain of new reading material while giving you the opportunity to support small businesses in these trying times.
59 Lamb’s Conduit St, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB | Website
Best for for those who want to expand their collection of books by female authors
Founded in 1998, Persephone Books is a bookstore that specialises in out-of-print or ‘lost’ books written by women. The name used for both the bookstore and their publishing house comes from ancient Greek myth as Persephone is the Greek goddess who serves as a symbol of female creativity and new beginnings. This store is based in Bloomsbury, an area in London known for its bookstores and publishing houses. Persephone Books is the perfect destination for those who want to expand their collection of books by female authors while exploring new genres and hidden gems.
Gay’s The Word
66 Marchmont St, Saint Pancras, London WC1N 1AB | Website
Best for those wanting to educate themselves on LGBTQ+ history & culture.
Gay’s The Word is the UK’s first ever and one of the last surviving lesbian and gay bookstores. It has been selling books and providing a space for the LGBTQ+ community since 1979. Having endured multiple attacks, raids and damage throughout the years, the shop has maintained not only its strength but its integrity as well. The store stocks a variety of genres such as poetry, history, politics, and fiction that for the most part revolve around the queer experience. They also frequently host community events such as meetings for the Lesbian Discussion Group and TransLondon. If you want to find interesting reading material while education yourself on queer history and culture, this is definitely the spot for you.
65 Hanbury St, Spitalfields, London E1 5JP | Website
Best for those looking for unique, out-of-the-box recommendations.
This pick is definitely one of the more interesting ones out there. Having only popped up in 2016, it has already established itself as one of the more ‘out there’ bookstores in London. Their shelves, instead of being arranged by mundane categories, are sorted by broad concepts such as ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Enchantment for Disenchanted’, and ‘The City’. This new way of curation allows you to discover books that you might have otherwise not know about. It’s beautiful interior design, with little pillow filled nooks and crannies where you can get caught up with a good book, also make it worth spending at least an hour in.
20-22 Broadway Market, Hackney, London E8 4QJ | Website
Best for those interested in more visual and art based books.
If you’re more interested in the visual side of books, then this is the place for you. Artwords is one of the best bookstores in London to fulfill your art literature needs. Ranging from design, fashion, photography, architecture, and more, you’ll find a variety of books that won’t just look nice on your coffee table but will feed your mind and soul as well. But don’t worry if you get overwhelmed, just ask the warm and welcoming staff on site and they’ll be able to help you out with any questions.
Word On The Water
Regent’s Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London N1C 4LW | Website
Best for those looking for a unique firsthand experience with secondhand books.
This is one bookstore that you will definitely not forget. Word On The Water is a shop carefully built upon a barge float on Regents Canal. With its books practically spilling out the inside of the barge, it almost feels like something out of a movie. Word On The Water has been open for almost a decade now – despite having some bureaucratic troubles – and there’s no chance of it closing anytime soon. And it being on a barge isn’t just a novelty; the store has quite a vast collection of fiction and non-fiction despite the small space. If you ever find yourself out in London on a sunny day, definitely take some time out to visit.
These bookstores will help you escape the confines of this strange world we’re living in. They’ll take you to more magical places that will free your mind and let you forget about the ongoing pandemic. But just as important, you’ll be supporting small arts and culture oriented spaces that are currently suffering because of the pandemic. This double whammy doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.