My birthday treat to myself this year was a trip to London on the High Speed train with a view to a lovely walk interspersed with bookshops. My old favourites, Foyles and Treadwell’s Books were central to the plan and I scoured Google Maps for nearby possibilities. I struck gold I think in that I found the London Review Bookshop and Persephone Books were both nearby. The route suggested a 40 minute duration starting at Goodge Street and finishing at Tottenham Court Road tube.
Here goes then!
Treadwells Books is an esoteric bookshop with a healthy supply of publications on all kinds of subjects from witchcraft to wicca, crystals to folk tales. I first read about it in The History of Magic where it is described as… The first time I visited I bought a biography on Doreen Valiante, the mother of modern witchcraft! (Doreen Valiant book) I found Doreen to be the most enchanting of characters, a lady with a thirst for knowledge and a fascinating winking coconut shell… You don’t find books like this everywhere you go! This time around I bought a book by Doreen herself. And can I say that their book bag is the best that I have come across!!!
London Review Bookshop – We walked passed the British Museum to get here and it is literally on a side road opposite the museum gates. This was a bookshop that I found during my research and every review mentioned the excellent cafe which always gets busy. The bookshop is set over two floors and is really well set out. There are no cramped areas to share with other book browsers, the space is very open and light. New books are available here and I was impressed by the selection, every Zadie Smith for example, a huge selection of PG Wodehouse, all the books I think you would be looking for. I really wanted to buy the biography I saw there about Shirley Jackson, the great American author, but it was huge and I really didn’t want to carry it around with me all day! I loved the way the books were displayed on the shelves, the extent of stock seemed huge given how well everything was set out. An impressive shop and a stones throw from one of London’s great museums.
Persephone Books is just down the road from Great Ormond Street hospital and about ten minutes from the London Review Bookshop. Persephone books is a concept I have mentioned in my blog before. They publish out of print, out of fashion, books of which the majority are authored by women long dead. The books are all published in a uniform grey cover with patterned end papers particular to the book. I found out that when you buy the book you get the bookmark that matches the endpapers for your book. Each book is £13 but if you buy three you get them for £33. Plus a book bag! I was really fortunate to have got a catalogue through the post the day before and I had noted on the train journey up the books which I hoped to purchase. I think the shop is laid out for a browse though rather than a shopping list and the uniform grey covers make finding particular novels virtually impossible. Very frustrating! Eventually, with a search party, I found four books that I wanted to buy. All that said it is a very lovely shop, beautiful displays, flowers and posters to inspire and lovely people working there. It was an aesthetic delight!
Foyles – I came across Foyles by mistake one day when going to the theatre across the road to see Evita. When I first walked in the doors I felt like I hard angels singing. This is a special bookshop. It is set out to wow you and overwhelm you with its bigger picture expanse but then on a micro basis it is beautifully set out, clearly labelled and with plenty of little sections of books recommended. And the stationary!!!! Everything I go there I buy another Blackwing pencil. Expensive for a pencil but once you’ve written with one you won’t want to write with anything else. Plus Hemingway wrote with them! See, told you. We lunched at Foyles too and that just made me wish even more that I lived nearby then I could just pop here for coffee and maybe not even buy a book. Ha. Like that would ever happen. Here I bought Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, along with my pencils!
This was just a fantastic walk around London and it felt really magical which was weird but awesome all at the same time. It was a cold but crisp winter’s day with a gorgeous blue sky. We even walked all the way back to St Pancras. I would totally totally recommend taking this walk though London and having a browse around some awesome bookshops.