I went to London for a work meeting the other day and decided to make the most of being in the Big Smoke and checking out some of the amazing independent bookshops there.
Starting out with Daunt Books in Marylebone (about a 20 min walk from Paddington Station), I got a facsimile hardback edition of The Body in the Library – isn’t that cover beautiful!
Love the way the shop is laid out with a huge part of it organised by country, with a mixture of fiction and non-fiction in each section. It was also so nice being able to browse a bookshop with nothing particularly in mind to look for, I just got to look at everything I was drawn towards, and definitely could have left with more books – I’ll defnitely have to go back and would highly recommend a visit if you’re in London. I’m interested to see how the other five Daunt shops in London compare to this flagship one.
After some wandering around and going to my meeting, I found my way to Persephone Books, which is an absolutely gorgeous little shop, and they also publish neglected/out-of-print, mainly female, authors to celebrate works of fiction and non-fiction that would otherwise be forgotten.
The books are all published with a signature grey dust jacket, but each book has individual full-colour vintage endpapers and they are beautiful.
“Persephone books are all grey because – well – we really like grey. We also 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.”
Persephone Books (2018, “About Us”)
I ended up picking up Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood, who was taught by and then married to illustrator & printmaker Eric Ravilious. I also picked up the Persephone Book of Short Stories because, well, dippability, and The Journey Home and Other Stories by Malachi Whitaker because I saw the words “Holborn” and “bookshop” and was intrigued? I also like that it’s a short story collection because I do not read enough short stories.
I’ve already had a look at their catalogue and decided what books I want to get next! Dangerous, this book lark.
Next up I went to Gay’s the Word, the LGBT bookshop in King’s Cross and really enjoyed the experience! I don’t often go into specialist indie bookshops because there’s just not enough of them outside London, I suppose, but I really enjoyed looking around knowing that everything there had a common theme in that they were written by or about gay people.
I went with the first in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, because it’s been so long since I read a book in a series!! It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I also picked up the first in Nicola Upson’s series featuring Josephine Tey, a real-life Golden Age detective fiction writer. I really enjoyed Andrew Wilson’s A Talent for Murder which was a fictionalised account of what happened to Agatha Christie during the 11 days in which she disappeared in 1926, so I feel like fictionalised stories featuring real-life crime writers is a thing now and i’m all for that.
I also picked up a pamphlet about “LGBTQ+ Night-time Spaces: Past, Present & Future” which I haven’t had chance to look at properly yet but I am looking forward to.
That’s it for my London indie book haul, if you’re ever in London I would definitely recommend checking out all of these shops, and I was also hoping to go to Magma and Gosh! Comics as well, bit gutted I didn’t have time.
Are there any other independent bookshops in London you’d recommend for next time I go?
Thanks for reading,