Tuesday 12 August 2014

Going underground

Stop number four on my Independent Booksellers Week bookshop crawl took me underground.

I'd walked around this area before and - looking up at shop fronts - failed to find Skoob, which is (admittedly not very) hidden down a pedestrian area, with an unassuming entry way that opens to steps down to this underground treasure trove.

In fact, the only reason I found the bookshop this time (stupidly walking right past the large sign pointing the way) was because I spotted two women taking selfies outside the shop - one of the requirements of bookshop crawl participation. A welcome opportunity to compare bookshop stories and general bookish excitement, it was great to meet this pair and share in the excitement of finally visiting a destination that had heard of the IBW stickers intrepid bookshoppers were supposed to be seeking on their crawl (see book photograph).

Buoyed by the meeting, I skipped down the steps and into the maze of secondhand books below.

Being underground means Skoob opens up into a much larger space than you'd anticipate. With lots of nooks to get lost in, and scattered office chairs which I initially wondered at until I found myself utilising one for more comfortable perusal of the lowest of the bookshelves.

Just the right level of busy, there was a buzz to the shop as I weaved between the shelves passing all manner of subjects and collections - including a Penguin orange-filled bookcase - before lighting on the large science fiction section (to my mind the jewel of all secondhand bookshops). It was while browsing here and delighting at the selection that I was able to further take in the atmosphere: snippets of conversation, interesting people, and marvelling at the patience of the bookseller as a loud woman declared she'd visited with the hope of finding a cheap book here because "it's more than £100 on Am****" as though rudely assuming the bookseller wouldn't know the quality of his stock.

Picking up Iain M Banks' The Player of Games and heading to the till I was impressed such a conversation hadn't ruined the booksellers' mood as he kindly checked online to see if I'd selected the correct book in the series.

Cue a fascinating conversation about books and the bookshop, followed by a quick check I hadn't taken any pictures of browsers for this blog - they feel very seriously about the privacy of their customers and have a great reason for this, which I'm sure the bookseller will explain if you ask about historic bookshoppers when you visit.

And should you need further encouragement – there's a piano too.

Skoob Books
66 The Brunswick,
off Marchmont Street,
Tel: 020 7278 8760


  1. Skoobs is another very dangerous shop that used to be on my walk home! There are very few things I miss about living in the London area but that shop is one of them - you could get lost in there for hours. My husband and I would meet there after work - it was a great place for a date!

    1. I love the idea of having a date at a bookshop! Am also rather envious of your old walk home...

    2. I don't miss the job - that was a nightmare, hence the move to the South West. And Bath has it's compensations - you have to come and visit our wonderful bookshops sometime. But leave plenty of time - between the new and the second hand ones, there are a few to get to!

    3. Bath's been top of my list of must visit towns for a long time! Sadly the reason it's still at the top and not yet visited is because of how much time I want to dedicate to the place - I started off planning a long weekend, then it became a week, then...

      I'm determined to get there sometime soon, but I might have to prioritise and arrange a couple of short visits instead.

      (Despite my list, feel free to add further recommendations)

  2. I'm fortunate to work about 10 mins walk from Skoob - that and the shops on Charing X Road are regular lunch break haunts. I too missed its existence for quite some time and had to hunt for it. Once found, though... There's also a decent Oxfam bookshop in the same area (although sometimes a bit silly on pricing). For a used book fiend like myself, there are far worse places to work... :)

    1. Oh! I'm so jealous of you for working this close to Skoob. I'd lose every lunch break buying books if I was in your situation. Heaven.


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