The London Bookshop Crawl was this past Saturday. My mum and I planned out a route that took in 10 bookshops, from Central to North London. We never thought we’d make them all! In the end, we did 12 bookshops in 13 hours. I bought 14 books, and my mum bought 10. I meant to take photos of them all, but clearly I didn’t manage it, so apologies to those I didn’t grab snaps of! So, where did we go?
We started off at Daunt Books Marylebone strategically, because they were one of the earliest to open at 9am. They’ve got three floors of travel, children’s, general and secondhand books in a gorgeous building. I loved the balcony, where the handrail was at an angle so you could rest books on it. I bought my first book of the Crawl, a little volume called On Reading, Writing and Living with Books. And we each got a copy of The Trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover for free, for taking part in the Crawl!
We went to Hatchards next. It was probably a good idea to do this one early on in the day, because it’s huge! There’s, what, five floors? Endless lovely little rooms to get lost in, books to suit any preference. We could have spent all day here (with a foray out to find a cafe!), but we had to hurry on to keep on schedule. Definitely one we’ll come back to, though!
Our next stop was the London Review Bookshop – though we did get momentarily distracted by the rubber stamp shop next door! Lovely little bookshop, with a good stock downstairs as well. And three bookshops in, we appreciated the tiny but fancy cafe for drinks and a snack. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and we got a free tote for buying a book!
Number four was Persephone Books – close enough to walk to from LRB, which was nice after hopping on and off the tube for the first few. It’s a tiny bookshop, but a lovely atmosphere and we really loved the ethos. We got there just when it opened at 12 – perfect timing, because it was packed by twenty-past! Mum also loved the patterned plates, bowls and mugs that were on sale as well. I bought Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s We Should All Be Feminists and Tea with Mr Rochester by Frances Towers.
Another walk around the park (and straight past Skoob Books, though I’d been there before so we didn’t pop in) to Gay’s the Word. I’ve wanted to go to this one for ages, but never made it. I could probably live in their teen fiction section, and I was delighted that my mum bought a book in there, given that she originally wasn’t even going to come inside. I bought If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alice Saenz and Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, and got a free tote. Another one I definitely want to go back to.
Then it was back onto the tube to get to Camden Lock Books, which is in Old Street Station. There was a good selection of secondhand books, and music. They’ve got pretty much every Pratchett in there, if you’re looking to complete your collection.
When we got to King’s Cross St Pancras to do our next two bookshops, we got distracted by how pretty it is! We did pop in to have a sneaky look at the Harry Potter shop they have, though it was too crowded to really go in. And since the sun was, miracle of miracles, actually out, we got lunch at Pret and sat outside to eat.
Then the next stop was Housman’s Bookshop just round the corner. They specialise in radical and progressive politics and theory. It was super cool, and I will definitely be going again to properly dig through the shelves. I bought The Upside-Down Bible: What Jesus Really Said About Money, Sex and Violence by Symon Hill, and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and got a free tote. Thank you, Housman’s!
And another walk – by now our feet were definitely aching – to Word on the Water, a floating barge stocking everyone on the towpath with great books. It’s a really cool way to do a bookshop, and there’s lots of variety and a dog. I got an old proof copy of Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey, and Kitchen Table Lingo: The English Project.
Then our planned penultimate stop, Ink@84 in Highgate. This is a gorgeous local indie bookshop with chairs and tables scattered around, serving teas and coffees – which we got free, thanks to the Crawl! I got Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, which led to a good chat with one of the booksellers about books about books. And while we were being restored by small injections of caffeine, we decided, on bookshop number ten, that we hadn’t had enough yet!
So it was back onto the Piccadilly and up to the Big Green Bookshop, which we had initially crossed out for being too far north. But we were feeling pretty good about ourselves at this point, and I do not regret it. These guys are the ones who’ve been winding Piers Morgan up recently, plus it had the best teen fiction section I’ve seen all day. I got Run by Kody Keplinger.
Then, our traditional last stop whenever we go book-shopping in London, and the only bookshop I’d been to before, Foyles, Charing Cross Road. I picked up a signed copy of Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, but we were definitely feeling it here so we quickly retreated to the cafe, where I ate the biggest sandwich I’ve ever seen.
But then! We got to Waterloo twenty minutes before our train, so we had a cheeky look into the Foyles there while we were waiting. It wasn’t on the Crawl, but it was a lovely end to an incredible day. I spotted a new series of notebooks in there, which said ‘start your own novel’ (or something like that!) on them. I thought that was a really cool idea, and I might have to go back and grab one of my own at some point!
So, that was the end of a long, trudge-filled, inspirational day. 13 hours. 12 bookshops. And 14 new books. I want to say thanks to Bex and all the booksellers, everyone who was involved in the organisation of this amazing day, and all the fellow Crawlers we met along the way. Here’s to next year!