Books, I love books. How to narrow down to just top five London bookshops? Walking past a bookshop is a wrench, if I do then it means that I must be in a tearing hurry. Whilst I can find joy in almost anywhere that sells books, I do have favourites. Here are my top five London bookshops … well there are six but one of them is really my favourite bookish cocktail bar.
Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street used to be my local bookshop. Every week I would prowl its shelves seeking my next companion. Daunt is a stunningly beautiful shop, built round a central atrium with a large window at one end. In the very beginning Daunt was a travel bookshop but sold so much more than guidebooks, this is the place to come to get buy the literature, the cook books, the history books about your chosen destination. Now Daunt stocks a beautifully curated selection of books on a wide range of topics. My favourite book that I have ever bought at Daunt? The File on H by Ismail Kadare bought when I was toying with visiting Albania.
Word on the Water
Word on the Water is a bookshop with a no fixed address. She is on a 100 year old Dutch barge and chugs up and down the Regents Canal. You can check where to find her on her Facebook page. Word on the Water stocks an eclectic selection of secondhand and new books. and can be visited at which ever part of the tow path she moors up. I found her just by Granary Square behind Kings Cross Station. Browsing through secondhand books is a joy. Sometimes you see old friends and remember the happy times you spent together, other times you look at the old covers and typefaces and realise that fashion even reaches into the world of books. Best of all is when you see a title that you have wanted to read for ages, I found THE DIARY OF A NOBODY by George and Weedon Grosssmith.
Persephone Books is both a publishing house and a bookshop. Classical music plays softly in the background of the Lambs Conduit Street shop. The books have beautiful grey covers with endpapers made with historic wallpaper designs, each book come with a matching bookmark. Most of the books by mid twentieth century women but men and other eras feature too. My favourite book from Persephone? Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield
Stanfords on Covent Garden’s Long Acre is another travel book shop but unlike Daunt it specialises in maps. Once I have decided on a holiday destination, Standfords is my first stop to purchase a proper folding map, even the floors have maps on them. Nowadays Stanfords sells guidebooks and all manner of travel related books. If you love maps and books then head for Stanfords.
London Review Bookshop
My perfect kind of a shop sells books and cake. The best book and cake shop that I know is the London Review Bookshop. The bookshelves are well stocked on a wide range of subjects. Terry Glover presides over the cake shop, tarts and things are available for lunch but the cake is thing to come for. I confess that I find the cafes at British Museum to be unappealing but no matter when the London Review Bookshop is just a skip away in Bury Place.
Maison Assouline is a temple to the coffee table book. It is housed in a perfect cube of room on Piccadilly and is devoted to selling the luxury books produced by Assouline. I concede that I have never actually bought a book in Maison Assouline as the luxury books come with luxury price tags. It is also home to Swans Bar which will serve coffee accessorised with the most beautiful spoon I have ever seen, in the evening they serve cocktails. Cocktails and books … perfection.
These are my top five London independent bookshops, which are yours?