For us book lovers, having bookshops open again is a blessing. Here are the best bookshops in London.
There is no better feeling than entering a bookshop and browsing the titles until you find a hidden gem or a book that’s been on your TBR pile forever. Amazon and bookshop.org have been necessary alternatives during the lockdown, but they do not compare to the atmosphere of bookshops and the joy they bring.
Newham Bookshop has been running since 1978. It provides its community with books, educational resources and essential support for students, teachers and parents. Half of the shop is dedicated to children’s titles, and the other half is dedicated to literary and academic titles.
What’s also great about Newham Bookshop is its events. Before the pandemic, it hosted a number of fantastic events, allowing authors to talk about their work and engage in meaningful conversations with readers. It’s an essential part of the local community and people travel from all over London to visit Newham Bookshop.
Housmans is an independent bookstore that has been up and running since 1959, based in Kings Cross. It specialises in books, magazines and periodicals of radical interest and progressive politics. This includes titles on feminism, black politics, LGBTQIA+, the environment, and anarchism.
Housmans also has a bargain basement, with a wide range of second-hand titles for just £1. It also sells greeting cards, postcards, badges, and hot beverages. It is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, drinking coffee and browsing books.
As a not-for-profit, Housmans provides the opportunity for volunteers to assist with running the store, as well as events and bookstalls. If you want to learn more about bookselling or spend time working in a bookshop, this is a great place to check out.
BookBar is located in North London and opened in 2020. It aims to emphasise the social and interactive aspects of book buying. For some, there is nothing better than to curl up alone with a good book. However, for the team at BookBar, the joy of reading comes from sharing it with like-minded people, especially with a glass of wine.
It is a fun, warm and welcoming space for people to socialise around books. It also aims to host a variety of events such as live music, open readings and wine-tasting. There are also plans to host “read-dating”: a speed-dating event for book lovers.
The team at BookBar has also created Shelf Medicate, book bundles tailored to your reading habits and goals. Whether you are a sophisticated reader, looking to expand your reading tastes or stuck in a reading rut, there is something for everyone.
London Review Bookshop
Located in Bloomsbury near the British Museum, the London Review Bookshop has been open since 2003. It is a bookshop to not only browse books, but also interact with others, drink tea or coffee, and enjoy a selection of delicious cakes.
It has over 20,000 titles, ranging from world literature classics to contemporary fiction and poetry. This includes history, politics, philosophy, cookery, essays and children’s books. The people who work at London Review Bookshop are experts in bookselling, and can provide recommendations based on all of your needs.
Daunt Books is a chain of independent bookstores, with its oldest one in Marylebone that has been around since 1912. Other locations include Holland Park, Cheapside, Hampstead and Belsize Park.
It truly has everything you could want or need in a bookstore: fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles, as well as bags, subscriptions and jigsaws.
The Marylebone branch also stocks second-hand titles. Given the grandiosity of the store, it is no wonder that visitors come from all over the world to see it.
If there is a place known for its hidden gems, it’s charity shops. So many of us go through every shelf and section of the shop, hoping to find our treasure. Charity bookshops are no exception.
The Oxfam Bloomsbury Bookshop has a variety of fiction, non-fiction and gift ideas. The last time I visited, I spent a good hour in the bookshop, making sure I had gone through every shelf. I left feeling very happy with the five books I purchased. The volunteers are fantastic and the funds raised go towards improving lives all over the world.
Gay’s The Word
Gay’s The Word is based near Russell Square and it is the UK’s oldest LGBT bookshop. It was first set up in 1979 as a community hub, where all profits were put back into the bookshop. It’s ethos has remained the same, being driven forward by its three passionate staff members.
It stocks a huge variety of books, from fiction to history, biography, poetry, graphic novels, children’s books, non-fiction titles and merchandise.
Its ground floor space is also used to host events, such as the Lesbian Discussion Group, Trans London and the London LGBT Book Group.
New Beacon Books
New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 and is based near Finsbury Park. It specialises in poetry, literature, non-fiction, history and children’s books from Africa, Caribbean, Asia, Africa America, Europe, South America and Black Britain.
It is not just a bookshop. New Beacon is a publisher and has produced a lot of important books relating to faith, identity, art and important black figures.
Waterstones in Piccadilly is the largest bookshop in Europe, with over eight miles of bookshelves to explore. Like its stores across the country, titles are split into Fiction, Travel, History, Art and Children’s. It usually hosts amazing events and has even had Hillary Clinton as part of a book tour. It also usually has cafes and a bar available, so hopefully, these will be operating again soon.
Foyles Charing Cross Road
This is Foyles’ flagship store, with over 200,000 titles across four miles of bookshelves. There are four floors of books, gifts, stationery, magazines, music, CDs, DVDs, a café and an auditorium. It is a beautiful store with lots of natural light.