Books

Sunday Salon: London Bookstores

As I have expected, my move and my pursuit of my postgraduate degree has hampered my reading. I have read more of Sense and Sensibility since two weeks ago, but I am still not yet half way after a month. In the meantime, I roam around London and this week, I finally made a tour of some of the major bookstores in this town.

I love bookstores. What bibliophile doesn’t? Like libraries, I get a tingle or warm, fuzzy feelings when I enter them. They bring me memories and give possibilities. I love the smell of new books. One does not judge a book by its cover, but I like to admire book jackets, especially of classic books. I enjoy browsing big and small bookstores, new and used. I brought five new books with me to London, and I am unsure if I will be able read all of them in a year. Still, when I enter a bookstore, there is always more than one thing I want to take home with me. I must use my self-control.

With that said, I do intend to buy a copy of Hamlet in the coming week. While I have a copy at home, I would like to own one here and reread it because this past week, I also scored tickets to the London showing of the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet (albeit bad seating). My bookstore journeys this week all offered more or less the same selection of Oxford and Penguin Classics from the new book stores.

The most notable bookstore street is Charing Cross Road which was popularised by 84, Charing Cross Road. It features many specialist and second hand book stores, I went in to a few like Any Amount, Quinto, Henry Porbes, and a couple of others. There is a small side street called Cecil Court which has more small specialty book stores devoted to rare books, motor books or general vintage books. Charing Cross Road also has Borders, Blackwells, and the famous Foyles. I like the Foyes actually. It’s big compared to the other shops, but not too large. It’s rather well lit, and I liked the selection. I definitely need to go back sometime to check out the used books section and inevitably, spend money.

The next day, I went a few streets west to Piccadilly to check out the largest bookstore in Europe Waterstones and Hatchards (its sister company). To be honest, I found Waterstone’s too large. One does not get a sense of closeness with books. I got it from Foyles and Hatchards (the oldest bookshop in the UK founded in 1797). The latter of which is down the street from Waterstones. It also has several levels, but the books are all packed closely together on distinctive black shelves. It’s much more intimate as a result. It is also right beside the luxurious food hall Fortnum & Mason. Neither is good for the wallet.

The only bookshop I want to go, but have not is Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. I’ll make it there soon. If I don’t find anything too special or good in second hand stores, I’m going to get Hamlet at Foyles. They actually had the a very good Shakespeare collection.

At some point this month, I will finish S&S. By that time, I may have a library card. Have a good week everyone!

Literary Links

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Ultimate list to download free ebooks.

6 Comments

  • Vasilly

    I understand how school can get in the way of reading. I’m currently reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and I’m only read three stories so far.

    What a great post! You make me want to spend this morning sitting in a bookstore.

  • Mei

    Don’t forget to go to the Reading Room at the British Museum. It’s absolutely breathtaking! I believe it’s a working library, too, but I don’t guarantee it 🙂

  • Dani in NC

    Thanks for sharing the link to the free ebooks list. The availability of free ebooks has been a lifesaver more than once when my daughter needed to read a classic for school and I didn’t have the cash to buy it for her.

  • Christopher Foyle

    I liked your comment about Foyles. Very many thanks.

    I was also interested in your comments about other bookshops which I happen to agree with, particularly Hatchards. Re which is the biggest bookshop in Europe, I think you’ll find that our square footage is the same or bigger than Waterstones in Piccadilly but that we stock a far larger range of titles than they do on more shelving.

    I think you’ll love Daunt in Marylebone High Steet, probably my favourite bookhop after my own, and Explore Booksellers in Aspen Colorado.

    Best wishes and do go on enjoying hookshops!

    Christopher Foyle

    Chairman, Foyles

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