bookshops

London Bookshop Crawl 2018

This time last week the London Bookshop Crawl was just beginning. A weekend-long celebration of books and bookshops across London, there was event, guided bookshop crawls, book swaps and so much more with the dozens of bookshops taking part.

I only took part in the London Bookshop Crawl on the Saturday, but I still had an amazing time. I had gotten a ticket for the guided tour around Waterloo & Southbank and there I met fellow bookish people – both old (previous bookshop crawl participants I’d met on previous years) and new. The tour was led by Cathryn and she was very friendly and knowledgeable throughout the tour and brought a great energy to the group.

We met in Starbucks for coffee and sustenance, so we’d be ready for all the bookshops! Then it was off to Somerset House Bookshop. This shop was full of beautiful illustrated books, both for children and adults. There were so many cool books there, but I managed to restrain myself and just by the one – I Know a Woman by Kate Hodges and illustrated by Sarah Papworth. This book is all about famous and influential women throughout history and the connections they have with other women. I fell in love with the art style and how vibrant the illustrations are and I always like to learn more about women that history might have forgotten.

Next, we had a walk across to the other side of the Thames to go to the National Theatre Bookshop. Naturally, there were a lot of plays and books about drama and theatre criticism but there were also some more generally fiction books and some interesting gifts too.

Then we had a little bit of a walk to The Bookshop Theatre which had an eclectic mix of plays and political and philosophical theory books. It had a mixture of new and second-hand books which was nice. There I bought an illustrated Folio Society edition of Othello by Shakespeare. I’ve not read Othello before and know very little about it, but my best friend said she’s taught it for A-Level and both she and the kids in her class really enjoy it.

Just around the corner from The Bookshop Theatre (or least that’s how it felt to me) was Travelling Through… and this was my favourite new-to-me bookshop on the crawl. It’s got a great selection of books from around the world from international authors as well as some second-hand books and a cute café downstairs. The staff were very nice and friendly too. There I bought three books that will be perfect for my Read the World ProjectDust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuro my read for Kenya and actually a book I had my eye on before the bookshop crawl, everything else were impulse buys, Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma, a book for Côte d’Ivoire, and So the Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist which will probably be my read for Sierra Leone. I will definitely be visiting Travelling Through… again next time I’m in that part of London.

The next and final stop on the guided tour was to The Feminist Library – a place I would’ve loved to visit because it sounded like it stocks just my sort of books, but I was meeting the aforementioned best friend for a late lunch. I said goodbye to my fellow crawlers and vowed to go to The Feminist Library soon.

But I had time to visit one more bookshop as I was meeting my bestie at Daunt Books in Marleybone. I first visited Daunt on last years bookshop crawl and I have been back multiple times since, so as I was in London I just had to go there. In Daunt I bought two more books I could use for my Read the World Project, The Hotel Tito by Ivana Bodrožić, potentially my read for Croatia, and A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel, a book I first picked up because of the texture of the cover was so unusual and now it’s likely to be my pick for Sweden.

And that was me done for the London Bookshop Crawl 2018. Five bookshops, four of which were new to me, and seven shiny new books brought home. I had a wonderful time on the crawl, talking all things books and giving and receiving recommendations. My feet and shoulders (from a heavy backpack) were definitely sore by the time I got home but it was worth it.

This was the third year of the London bookshop crawl and I love how much it has grown in such a short space of time. If you’re interested in the bookshop crawl check out the website and there’s due to be two Summer Bookshop Crawls, one in York and another in Canterbury, so if you’re interested in either of them make sure you follow the Twitter account and sign up for updates via the website.

Until February 2019 and the next London Bookshop Crawl! I better get reading!

Advertisements

Five Brilliant Bookshops I’ve Discovered Thanks to the London Bookshop Crawl

It’s just over two weeks till this year’s London Bookshop Crawl! It’s a weekend long event from Friday 9th – 11th February and, as its name suggests, it’s a bookshop crawl in London where you can either join organised groups or plan your own bookshop crawl with handy maps with your friends and family. Dozens of bookshops are taking part and in some cases, that might mean there’s freebies or discounts to those participating in the crawl. It’s all very exciting and you can learn more about the London Bookshop Crawl here.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s crawl. I’m going to be a part of a guided group that’s going to be visiting bookshops in the Waterloo and Southbank area – a part of London I’ve been to a fair bit but never been to any bookshops round there.

As I’m so excited about all the new bookshops I’m soon to discover, I thought I would look back at previous London Bookshop Crawls and talk about some of the incredible bookshops I’ve discovered thanks to this wonderful event.

Persephone Books
This is a very unique bookshop. Persephone Books is not just a bookshop but a publisher as well. When I visited it on the first Bookshop Crawl the nice ladies there told us how the publisher worked and how it chose which books to print – because Persephone focuses on out of print works from the twentieth century, the majority of which are women. There’s a whole range of genres to be found there and the people who work there are happy to give recommendations. All their books have grey covers and have different patterned endpapers.

Any Amount of Books
This is a second-hand bookshop just off Leicester Square and it’s now somewhere I pop into every time I’m in that part of London (which is a fair bit because Leicester Square is often the meet up point for my friends). The books are in such great condition and there’s a wide variety of genres and books of various ages. There’s new releases and hidden gems and the shop has a basement that’s chockfull of books. It’s a smaller bookshop but it’s got a lot of cool stuff if you’re happy to have a rummage.

Word on the Water
This is a very unusual and cute bookshop, for one thing it isn’t on solid ground. It’s a second-hand bookstore on a barge! It’s a tiny place but that adds to its charm. There’s books to look through on the bank of the river, and you can go inside the barge too to browse more books there and maybe even sit on one of the few chairs by the fire. Word on the Water is a hidden gem on the river and there’s a dog there too to make you feel welcome.

Belgravia Books
This is a small independent bookshop a short walk away from Victoria station. It’s got a lot of books, fiction and non-fiction, from international authors and they’re not all the typical books you’d normally find in your high street Waterstones. Side note: I have nothing wrong with Waterstones, they’re fab, but it’s generally the bestsellers/books that the publishers give a huge push to in their stores.

Daunt Books
Daunt Books is one of my favourite discoveries from the London Bookshop Crawl. It’s a big bookshop, with your typical YA, children’s and popular fiction sections but the thing that really make it stand out is how a big portion of the books are divided by country. For example, if you go to the Austria section, you’ll find the usual travel guides and memoirs for that country but also fiction books set there and by Austrian authors. The top balcony has books from around the UK, the ground floor is all of Europe and downstairs is books from America, Africa, Asia and Australasia. It’s a great place to find books to help broaden your reading horizons and to discover literature from all around the world.

I could go on much more about the other interesting bookshops I’ve been introduced to thanks to the London Bookshop Crawl, but thought it’s best to stick to five – that’s a manageable amount. If you want to read about the other bookshops I’ve visited, you can read about the 2016 London Bookshop Crawl here (it was so much smaller back then and it’s incredible how much it’s evolved in a few years and that’s all down to the amazing Bex) and the 2017 one here.

There’s still time to plan your London Bookshop Crawl! There’s a list of all the bookshops involved, bookshop crawl maps, the all important Bookshop Crawl ID and more on the website.

Bluestocking Books London Tour

On Saturday I went on a bookshop tour in Central London after being invited by the brilliant Lauren at Bluestocking Books. There are rarely tours on weekends, instead the tours are mostly during the week – as that’s when bookstores really need people coming into them – so this was a bit special as it featured five very different bookshops.

We started off in Cecil Court – home to many unique bookshops with rare and antiquarian books, maps, prints, and lots of other book/printing related items. I’ve been to Cecil Court before, but I’ve always been intimidated by the shops. The antique ones look super expensive and I always felt there’d be a Pretty Woman moment, with shopkeepers thinking I didn’t fit in – but I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. Lauren had arranged for us to have a talk with Tim Bryars at Bryars & Bryars and it was great to hear the history of both the shop and Cecil Court. He also talked about antique books, how they’re valued and how there are books that are hundreds of years old for sale for £30 so antique books don’t have to be as intimidating as we (or I) might think. There was a book of Persian poetry that looked gorgeous and I was tempted by it, but its price was closer to £350 which was just a bit out of my price range but it showed there’s definitely a wide range of books and prices to be found.

Also in Cecil Court we visited Watkins Books, a shop that focuses on the mind, body and soul with books on religion, spirituality and the occult. I had my Tarot read which was different. A friend of mine has done Tarot readings before but (no offence to her) the guy in the shop seemed much more knowledgeable about the whole thing. I’m not sure if I believe in Tarot readings and that sort of thing, though some of the cards I picked definitely had relevance to my life right now, but it was an interesting experience and I like to keep an open mind.

After Cecil Court we went across to the few bookshops still on Charring Cross into Any Amount of Books, a brilliant second-hand bookshop that I’d been to before. This is a really great value shop. All the books are in really good condition, and there’s such a wide range of genres and release dates. I went in the basement for the first time and this was the one and only place I bought a book – I was very restrained. The book I bought was Augustown by Kei Miller which will be my Jamaica read for my Read the World Project.

Then we had a short walk to Soho and to Gosh Comics. Now my personal favourite comic shop in London is Orbital Comics (because the staff are super friendly, and it feels like what you think a comic shop should be like in terms of its layout and atmosphere) but Gosh is a great shop. It’s much brighter with a more open-plan layout so it’s easy to find different comics and graphic novels with the single issues and all the Marvel and DC comics in the basement, and the staff are still awesome and friendly. I enjoyed talking to other people on the tour about comics and giving recommendations and finding new comics that I want to check out in the future.

The final stop on this tour was the most glamourous bookshop I have ever been to – Masion Assouline. It’s a bookshop with a bar and its focus is bespoke coffee table books (some of which are huge and all of them are beautiful) and vintage books and objects. There we had a tour from a woman who works there as she took around the three floors of the store, and explained what Maison Assouline was all about and showed us the different collections and what they print. It was a shop that I’d never normally go into, but I’m really pleased I did. I like the idea of a book being a focal point in a room so if I ever have the money I will one day buy a bookstand and a huge beautiful book from Maison Assouline and put it pride of place in my future house!

The best thing about this Bluestocking Books Tour was Lauren. She was really well-informed about the bookshops and the areas of London we were in and had clearly put in the time in to make connections with booksellers so both they and those of us on the tour got the most out of the experience.

The tour lasted about two and a half hours and that time flew by thanks to the company, interesting bookshops and a great tour guide. I’d recommend wearing trainers, or at least comfy shoes, as you’re on your feet for the whole tour, and maybe an umbrella because this is London and I was the one person on the tour who forgot you could never trust British weather! Still, a little rain never hurt anyone. It was a fun and informative few hours, visiting an eclectic mix of bookshops with a wonderful and friendly guide. I love going into bookshops but there’s something more special about visiting them with fellow booklovers, and going to bookshops I wouldn’t normally think of visiting. I will definitely be more confident and visit shops in Cecil Court more often.

I really do highly recommend Bluestocking Books and if I was free during the week I’d definitely be going on the themed tours – I really like the sound of the Comics and Illustrated Books tour. You can find out more about Bluestocking Books and book your place on tours here and you can follow Bluestocking Books on Twitter.

How I Read Tag

I saw that Joy from JoyIsabella had done this tag and I loved the questions and her answers so I had to give it a go.

How do you find out about new books to read?
While I’m always a bit slow to read new releases (I’ve got too many books that have been sitting on my shelves for years) I usually hear about new books from the people I follow on Twitter. If I keep seeing people I know and whose opinions I often agree with talking about a book I’m more likely to remember it. Plus when I have a wander around a bookstore that’s where I find what’s new on the shelves.

How did you get into reading?
I’ve always been a reader from a very young age. My mum used to read to me every night (my favourite book was a big collection of Meg and Mog stories) and then I’d always read when there was a spare moment in school and I’d read before I went to bed at night.

How has your taste in books changed as you’ve got older?
When I was really young all I would read was the Animal Ark books by Lucy Daniels, slowly I started reading other books starting with the Puppy Patrol series by Jenny Dale (can you see the animal theme yet?!) but by the time I turned about 10 I was reading a lot of different stuff. The Princess Diaries and Eragon both helped me discover and love new genres and now I’m a very much an eclectic reader. Fantasy, chick-lit, sci-fi, contemporary, adventure – I’ll give it all a go.

How often do you buy books?
I go through stages of not buying any books for months and then buying like seven in the space of a week. If I don’t go in a bookshop for ages then I’m OK, it’s as soon as I walk into a bookshop and see all the 2 for 1 offers and stuff like that, I become weak and my purse becomes empty.

How do you react when you don’t like the ending of a book?
If struggled with the whole book I’ll probably be a bit annoyed if the endings not worth the struggle. If I’ve liked the book and then the ending is completely out of left field (think The Death Cure) or I didn’t like the ending for whatever reason I’ll be a bit peeved. Depending on how much I liked the book/series I might be annoyed for a bit and then just forget about it or otherwise I’ll be annoyed and bitter for a long time.

How often do you take a sneaky peak at the last page to see if there’s a happy ending?
I very rarely do that. Sometimes I like reading the last sentence which is a bit weird but otherwise I don’t skip ahead.

So that was the How I Read Tag. Like Joy, I tag anyone who wants to do this tag!