Thursday 11 December 2014

On the museum trail

One of my favourite* things to do in London is visit the Natural History Museum.

I may be in my mid 30s, but I know a significant number of its rooms by heart and barely need to think about where I'm going to find any given area. I've bought most of the gift shop over the years and am a big fan of their cafe as a place to sit and people watch. Most important of all, every year I make a pilgrimage to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

All of which meant I was pretty surprised when I realised the next stop on my Books are my bag bookshop crawl was somewhere I've walked past on countless occasions when hurrying between the museum and the underground.

The new and remainder South Kensington Books is found on Thurloe Street, approximately ten doors from the exit of the tube station. Admittedly, walking from the tube to the museum the bookshop doesn't stand out (probably because you've taken the underground tunnel route), but on your way home the natural route to the tube is past several eateries and directly towards this unassuming bookshop.

Now I know it's there I can't miss it. On the day of my bookshop crawl I walked past it. Twice.

And this is despite it having a pretty picture window crammed with books and me having a homing beacon for bookshops.

The room behind the window of South Kensington Books really has to be seen to be believed. To call the place a Tardis doesn't really seem fair, because this bookshop is so much bigger than that. Where the shop front would indicate a cosy, boutique bookshop, instead you find two huge rooms, stocked floor to ceiling with books, and centrally filled with large tables of recommendations.

Advertising art, history, travel and literature on the shop front, they certainly do have a good selection on these subjects, but if visitors are after something else there's more than enough variety to keep them occupied.

Whether it was because I was so close to the beloved museum or the fact I'd already bought a lot of fiction that day, I found myself drawn to the non-fiction end of the shop, in particular popular science, where I picked out SuperSense by Brian Hood – because I accidentally got carried away and read several pages while stood in the bookshop.

In a hurry to make up on time I made my way to the till and continued my journey. But now I know where this – very, very reasonable given its location – bookshop is it's become a necessary part of my Natural History Museum routine.

Next week I'll be making my annual pilgrimage to the photography exhibition, afterwards be sure to say hello if you spot me loitering in the bookshop.

South Kensington Books
22 Thurloe Street, London, SW7 2LT
Tel: 020 589 2916

*to clarify: favourite thing excluding visiting a bookshop or five

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