Sunday 6 July 2014

Intoxicated by the joy of a good #bookshopcrawl

As far as I'm concerned, you can never visit too many bookshops. From the tiniest of independent new booksellers to the sprawling mazes stocking all manner of secondhand books – not forgetting the people who inhabit them – there's always something wonderful to be discovered.

So when I heard about Independent Booksellers Week's bookshop crawl there was no question about whether I'd take part, only where. Because as everyone knows, it's not safe to drive between bookshops when intoxicated. And after a few hours' bookshopping that's the best way to describe me.

I decided to walk, bus and tube my way across London, meeting a selection from The Booksellers Association's participant list and exploring the bookshop landscape from west to east.

My first destination was The Pitshanger Bookshop in Ealing. This homely shop had a real community feel, both physically with its furnishings but also personally, as customers kept popping in asking questions, picking up orders and generally talking books. Impressed by this constant low-level chatter I soon dived in to ask for something to lose myself in, the answer: The Goldfinch by Donna Tart.

A bus and a tube ride into town found me in Notting Hill, where I had a quick nosey in the windows of Books for Cooks and the famous The Notting Hill Bookshop (both of which I'm saving for another day) before heading to Lutyens and Rubinstein. One of the first places I tried to visit for this blog, I confess I was a little nervous this one wouldn't live up to the expectations I'd created of it.

But my goodness it was worth the wait.

All bookshops are attractive places to visit, but the clean lines and beautiful spines on display here made Lutyens and Rubinstein quite possibly the most beautiful bookshop I've ever been in.

I took home Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Olafsdottir, as much for its interesting story as its attractive cover to remind me of the beauty I found. (Please do click back soon when I'll share pictures)

Taking the tube to Kings Cross, I quickly popped into an old favourite, Watermark Books, which I'd met on my first ever bookshop crawl, before heading to stop three.

I'd chosen radical booksellers Housmans because part of the joy of a bookshop crawl is to leave your comfort zone: as much as I'd like to change the world, I'm not radical. Thankfully, I soon realised just how much of the stock was something I could relate to. Then when I asked the bookseller for help choosing I was made to feel even more at home as he recommended an author I love: Emile Zola. Clutching The Drinking Den, I moved on.

Making a quick stop in Gay's the Word – one of the friendliest bookshops I've ever met – I was reminded of another destination I'd once been nervous about entering. If there had been more time I'd have happily spent the rest of my afternoon there...

But there was nearby Skoob Books to meet and, quite by chance, some fellow bookshop crawlers (@marionhoney and @booksandquills), not forgetting getting my hands on one of the Independent Booksellers Week 2014 stickers.

My only secondhand bookshop of the day, this underground marvel more than lived up to expectations with its maze of shelves and dedicated bookseller (I highly recommend striking up conversation).

Indeed, Skoob is so crammed with books I imagine it would be easy to hide away from the world for a good couple of hours/days without being found, something I'm determined to try when I have more time. For now, I gravitated towards an extensive science fiction section and found Iain M Banks' The Player of Games.

Returning underground to travel, I hopped onto the tube to head east, where I found myself walking past an array of colours, sounds and wonderful smells to meet my final destination: Brick Lane Bookshop. Crowded with bookshoppers even at the end of the day, this shop is as vibrant and welcoming as the street it inhabits, which helped give me a much-needed shot of enthusiasm to browse the books after a day walking the shelves.

Here I picked up The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, but there were so many tempting choices – including a large selection at what appeared to be permanently discounted books – that it was a good job I was at my final destination and able to take my time looking.

And so, loaded up with books, sore feet and a little damp after a late rain shower, my bookshop crawl concluded. Yes I was tired, my feet hated me and my hair had frizzed, but who cares? I was drunk on good bookshops, and I'm a very happy drunk.

The Pitshanger Bookshop
141 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing, London, W5 1RH
Tel: 020 8991 8131 @PitshangerBook1

Lutyens and Rubinstein
21 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2EU
Tel: 020 7229 1010 @LandRBookshop

5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 9DX
Tel: 020 7837 4473 @HousmansBooks

Skoob Books
66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AE
Tel: 020 7278 8760 @SkoobBooks

Brick Lane Bookshop
166 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU
Tel: 020 247 0216 @BrickLaneBooks


  1. Hi Erica, so pleased to have come across your lovely blog. I too am a lover of book shops and can easily while away an hour or three browsing. I am a new blogger over over at where I have recently reviewed a couple of bookshops. Your blog has given me so many more bookshops - local to me that I now plan to visit. I look forward to following you book travels. Angie

    1. Hi Angie, thanks for your comment. I see you've visited two bookshops I thoroughly enjoyed visiting - do let me know when you visit any others, it's always good to hear about other people's experiences.


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