Yesterday was the wonderful London Bookshop Crawl. Over 50 bookshops took part with discounts, freebies and goodies available and 1,000 people signed up through Eventbrite to take part.
Now I went to the first London Bookshop Crawl last year when there was a lot fewer of us, about 25-30 altogether, so we all stuck together in one big group. This year because of the amount of people it was a bit different. There were four groups of about 25-30 people that started off in Foyles and then went around London together, but the whole crawl was really a much wider affair where people could go off on their own or with friends and discover new bookshops together.
I was a part of group two which was led by the lovely Ruth and Michal. We started off in Foyles where I didn’t buy anything but I did give away 21 books and graphic novels to fellow bookshop crawlers. This worked out very well for me as it’s given me a lot more shelf space for new purchases.
We all walked to Gosh! Comics together where I did go a bit mad but it wasn’t so bad as there was a 10% discount on all books bought if you were a part of the Bookshop Crawl. There I bought Mockingbird Vol. 1, Saga Vol. 6, A-Force Vol. 0 and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’d been meaning to try Mockingbird for ages and I’m looking forward to it even more after the lady at the till said it was her favourite series.
After Gosh we hopped on the tube to Victoria where we found Belgravia Books. This independent bookshop was small but so interesting. The books it sells, both fiction and non-fiction, are from all over the world and their not the usual stuff you find in your high-street chain bookstores. There I bought Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes and The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Aymé, two books I first picked up because of their lovely covers. I definitely plan to visit Belgravia Books again, it had such a wide and interesting selection of books I could have spent much longer there.
Then we were back on the tube to go to King’s Cross and Word on the Water – a secondhand bookshop that’s on a barge on the Thames! We were lucky because it was a really mild day with a surprising amount of sunshine for the end of February so it was lovely to be along the river. The barge is wonderful, the men who worked there were super friendly and helpful and they even have a dog that wanders around, checking out the customers. There I bought a decent copy of The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte for £3. Word on the Water is a truly unique bookshop that everyone should go visit if they get the chance.
After Word on the Water it was time for lunch. I along with many others went to lunch in Holborn where were met up with Bex who created and organised the whole London Bookshop Crawl and about thirty of us hand lunch together. It was great to have a sit down and refuel as we chatted about all things books.
After lunch group two’s plan was to go to Persephone Books but I, along with Annette and Lauren (two people I met last year on the Crawl and it was great to catch up with), skipped that shop and headed to Daunt Books instead. Last year we went to Persephone Books and while it is a quaint, independent publisher that focuses on out of print women’s work, it doesn’t really stock the sort of books I’m interested in. Plus, I found the book I bought at Persephone last year, Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf, just OK.
So while group two were at Persephone we went to Daunt Books in Marylebone and I fell in love with the place. It is a beautiful bookshop that not only has your usual fiction, non-fiction, poetry sections but the majority of the shop is split into books from and about different countries. The downstairs has books from Africa, America, Australia and the Middle East, the ground floor has books from all around Europe and then the top floor balcony has books from around the UK. I could have spent so much longer browsing the shelves but in the end I restrained myself and bought just four books – Old Rosa by Reinaldo Arenas, Sirius by Jonathan Crown, How I Came to Know Fish by Ota Pavel and The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung. The lovely people at Daunt Books also gave every Bookshop Crawler a free copy of The Trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by Sybille Bedford and I got a free tote bag which is always handy.
After re-joining group two in Daunt we went off to Orbital Comics (aka one of my favourite places in London) where I bought the first Volume of Monstress by Marjorie Lu and Sana Takeda. This was my last purchase of the day – which my shoulders were probably very grateful for as I was rather laden down by that point.
The last stop for group two was Waterstones Piccadilly where there was a quiz held for bookshop crawlers. Unfortunately, I was too tired and achy by that point to stay for the quiz so I said my goodbyes to those plucky few who had made it the whole way round the tour and headed off for my train home.
I had a brilliant time yesterday at the Bookshop Crawl. It was great to catch up with people I’d met a year ago at the last Crawl and have chatted to on Twitter since, and it was great to meet new people who had heard about the Crawl via Facebook or Twitter. We are all from different walks of life and ages but we all share a love of books. One of my favourite things about the day was getting book recommendations and throwing my favourite books at people.
Thanks again to Bex for organising such a wonderful event and I not only look forward to next year’s London Bookshop Crawl but to wherever the Summer Bookshop Crawl may be. Last year it was in Bath and if you have any suggestions of where in the UK it should be this year (or just want to be the first to know about future Bookshop Crawls) you can share them with Bex here.