Wednesday 24 December 2014

Quality over quantity

On a crisp, bright December afternoon I made my way along The Pavement to this week's bookshop.

An intriguing parade of shops, I couldn't help but take my time, stopping into a range of independent boutiques to pick up Christmas gifts and generally enjoy my surroundings.

In contrast to the often perfectly styled shops along my walk from the tube, Clapham Books is small and rough around the edges, but that by no means diminishes the experience of this bookshop. In fact, rough is probably too harsh a word, more unfinished: having relocated to this address a few months ago the frontage is a banner as opposed to painted sign and decoration (excluding the stairs down to the framers) is simple: the books are what's important here.

My picture below doesn't do the shelves justice – while bad for photography, the sunshine rippling across the shelves in accordance with passing traffic really was lovely – and what a selection of books they have.

There are no guilty pleasures or trashy novels here: if you're looking for a classic that will still be being read in 100 years' time I'm pretty sure anything in the fiction section applies. That's not to say their stock is all heavy reads, far from it, there is a wide selection from literary to love, crime to sci fi and everything in between. The difference is in quality. Where WHSmith might stock a range of throwaway holiday reads, in Clapham Books you find books you'll want to return to again and again. Essentially, every inch of bookshelf space counts. Having previously visited sister bookshop Herne Hill Books I really shouldn't've been surprised by this, but seeing really is believing.

Reassured by the high standard of books for adults (including a good selection of non-fiction too) I made my way to the children's area, where I needed to find a Christmas present for my niece.

A keen reader, hers is always my favourite gift to buy as it takes me back to childhood favourites and introduces me to new ones. Choosing the beautifully-illustrated Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (and wanting a copy for myself), I wandered over to the till, asking for advice as I'm never good at choosing the right book for the right reading age. Thankfully, they soon agreed I'd made the right choice, so I completed the gift with a National Book Tokens card, followed up by a present for me: the short The Eyes by Edith Wharton.

My niece is yet to unwrap her present, so I'm still waiting to find out exactly how successful my trip was, but from my point of view Clapham Books made gift-buying a dream.

Clapham Books
26 The Pavement, Clapham Common, London, SW4 0JA
Tel: 020 76272797


  1. I hope your niece doesn't read your blog and you've spoilt the surprise!! Do let us know what she makes of your choices.

    Thank you for all your blogs this year - I've enjoyed my vicarious travels around the book shops of the UK. Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year and I look forward to "visiting" more with you in 2015.

    1. Hi Susanne,
      Thank you to you and all my readers for sharing my journey so far - it's all your support that makes me feel it's worth continuing to share the bookshopping fun.

      As for my niece, she's unfortunately not a reader of this blog, but I have been told the book was very well received. Apparently she'd not 'met' Chris Riddell before so I'm very happy to have introduced her to him!

      Happy Christmas and happy new year to you too.


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