There’s something terribly romantic about a good old-fashioned bookshop. Not a run-of-the-mill chain bookstore, but a proper, dusty, musty bookshop, with books that actually smell of books, an eccentric owner and ideally a cat or two knocking about the place. One where you can feel slightly smug about being in on the secret and spend hours browsing in without feeling the pressure to buy something...
With that in mind, we asked around to find out Londoner’s favourite lesser-known book stores; so here’s our pick of the best:
Books for Cooks, Notting Hill
As the name suggests, this is a shop purely devoted to cook books from all over the world, with over 8000 titles in stock. However, walk in and take a sniff you’ll instantly know this is a shop with more than just books. Dedicated cooks test out recipes from the books, releasing a daily menu tweeted to their followers every morning. Exciting, affordable food, sourced locally, a wealth of cookbooks you won’t find anywhere else and friendly, knowledgeable staff make this a must-visit for chefs both amateur and professional.
Daunt Books, Marylebone
First and foremost a travel book shop, books are unusually arranged by country; so if you like to read novels set in the place you are going to, you’ll find them here, lovingly set next to travel guides, maps, phrase and history books on the area. An Edwardian shop lined with long wood galleries, it’s a pleasure to be in the building and spend an afternoon browsing for hours.
Newham Bookshop, Newham
A community bookseller’s set up 34 years ago by a group of parents, this non-profit company is a community bookshop in every sense of the word. It remains the largest independent bookstore in East London to this day with fascinating piles of books here there and everywhere. Managed by Vivian Archer, who we interviewed a few months ago
The Society Club, Soho
Dogs, books and cakes may seem an unlikely combination, but London Living can’t really think of a better one. This Soho gem, often guarded by a tiny Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is crammed full of treats; delectable cakes, collectable and rare books and cute canines. Literary chat around the communal table is encouraged, as is the company of dogs: “We are dog friendly and have three shop dogs; Monty, Molly, Modesty. Guest stars Noodles and Foxy visit often. We stock organic dog food and liver treats, biodegradable poo-bags as well as a selection of Soho-worthy collars and clothing.” Soho eccentricity at its very best.
Head straight up through the hectic, noisy streets of Dalston and eventually on your left, you’ll find this north-east London gem, outstanding simply because of its excellent selection of novels. The friendly, knowledgeable staff really know their stuff; we don’t know who orders the stock in this store but they have impeccable taste, from the very best modern classics to travel books on the best locations. It’s impossible to leave this shop without buying something – afterwards, treat yourself to a kebab in one of the delicious and very cheap Turkish cafes that surround the store.