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My Ultimate (London) Bookshop Quest, Part 1

So I organise the London Bookshop Crawl each year, and you might assume that I've visited all of the bookshops but alas such is not the case. I no longer actually live in London, although I grew up in the suburbs and spent the first 23 years of my life there, so all of my bookshop visiting is done on commute now and sadly only ever with limited time. But don't worry because I do have a bucket list goal to visit every single bookshop in central & greater London.

I've been working on this goal for the past few years trying to visit some new to me ones every time I'm in London, but I'm terrible at keeping track and my phone gallery is just full of random bookshop pictures, so I though it would be a really good idea to track via blog List (my favourite medium) where I've been and share the pictures! This will be a several part series and I also plan to do something similar for the bookshops I visit in other parts of the country. Here's where I've been so far!

The Alligators Mouth (Richmond, SW London)

Richmond & Kew are my childhood locality so I've visited the bookshops there a lot, and if you're in our membership you'll have read about my most recent visit to this gorgeous children's bookshop, which I always make the time to pop into when passing.

The Amnesty Bookshop, Kentish Town (Kentish Town, NW London)

One of my most recent visits at the time of writing, in preparation for our Camden & Kentish Town Group Bookshop Crawl this year. A lovely little charity bookshop with very friendly staff and an impressive selection of both fiction, children's books, and more specialist reading. I bought Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin, because I've loved some of her other books and am on a bit of a kick!

Any Amount of Books (Charing Cross road, central London)

This excellent second hand bookshop featured on the first ever London Bookshop Crawl and is somehow very soothing to my soul. We often take groups in on bookshop crawls, and I usually pop in when meeting friends in Leicester Square.

The Atlantis Bookshop (Bloomsbury, central London)

My first visit to The Atlantis Bookshop was somehow only in October 2023, despite their many years of involvement in the London Bookshop Crawl! It's a fascinating shop packed with a very interesting history as London's oldest occult bookshop, and owned by some lovely and very knowledgeable women. I bought a very interesting book about the history of Christmas Baking, which may not sound like something you'd like but is entirely in my wheelhouse.

Battersea Bookshop (Battersea Power Station, south London)

Another more recent visit, although partly because they're a newer bookshop. Battersea Bookshop offered us the use of their event space for the 2023 London Bookshop Crawl and we had a fantastic Big Bookish Quiz there! I bought Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, and had a lot of fun browsing their brilliantly curated selection.

Books for Cooks (Notting Hill, West London)

I am obsessed with cookbooks and devour them like novels, so when we were coming up with the idea for our Bunk off and Book Shop events back in 2018, it only made sense to do it in Notting Hill and get a chance to visit Books for Cooks, a bookshop entirely dedicated to cookbooks and food writing aka 'the dream'. I have bought many things here over the years, but some of my favourites are their own little cookbook collections.

Boom Cat Books (Camden NW London)

Another recent visit, and I'm looking forward to browsing at length here during the Camden & Kentish Town group this year. Camden market is the perfect location for this lovely little bookshop, packed floor to ceiling with books! I didn't buy anything when I visited (gasp!) so I'll be looking to rectify this in February!

British Library Bookshop (Kings Cross, central London)

This is the bookshop in the British Library, not to be confused with the (also excellent) main British library shop which also sells books. I usually visit at least a couple of times a year, as the British library foyer is an excellent meeting place for groups, but I actually can't remember what I last bought there!

Clapham Books (Clapham, SW London)

All of my childhood I got a train that went through Clapham Junction, but I never got off that train in Clapham until February 2023, when scheduling meant i had a day to bookshop crawl with my family and we went to Clapham! Clapham Books have been long time supporters of the London Bookshop Crawl and their bookshop is tiny and absolutely beautiful. We all browsed for ages and I eventually ended up buying Storyland by Amy Jeffs, which I still haven't managed to read but plan to get to very soon!

Chener Books (Dulwich, South London)

This is a great indie bookshop I visited on my first visit to Herne Hill & Dulwich during 2019's Bunk off and book shop. It's thoughtfully laid out with a great selection, and I don't remember what I bought (I did buy something) but I do remember convincing a fellow bookshop crawler to try her first Ishiguro.

Chocolit (Clapham, SW London)

Chocolate and children's books, what could be better? This is a little bookshop with a lovely selection from which I bought a book that I can't remember the title of and also some chocolate which was delicious.

Fara Bookshop (Teddington, SW London)

Another bookshop I've been visiting for years due to its proximity to my old house. This is honestly one of the best charity bookshops I've ever been to, with a massive range of brilliant things. I've bought everything here, from cookbooks to graphic novels to nonfiction and everything in between.

Fara Kids Books (Clapham, SW London)

This is a little bit of a bus journey and walk up a hill type visit on our free day during the 2023 bookshop crawl, but it was well worth the walk and is absolutely full of children's books of all sorts, from pictures books through classics and a vast back room of fiction. We spent well over an hour here and got very comfy (as you can see from the picture) and we bought a lot.

Forbidden Planet (Shaftesbury Avenue, central London)

This is the centre of geekdom and I actually don't remember when I first visited, but I think it was after we started doing the London Bookshop Crawl. Upstairs is loads of merch and downstairs is half books, half graphic novels. I buy something almost every time I visit and its responsible for almost the entire Saga series, and also various volumes of heartstopper, The Sandman, Paper Girls and a couple of our fandom dedicated cookbooks!

Gay's the Word (Kings Cross, Central London)

You've probably heard of Gay's the Word - for a long time they were the UK's only LGBTQ+ bookshop, and they are a shop that I wouldn't have visited without the bookshop crawl. It's a small shop of queer books, with a big selection and brilliant staff and I usually find it very easy to buy things here!

Gosh! Comics (Soho, Central London)

Gosh is amazing. I frequently recommend it to people who have never been to a graphic novel shop, because it's laid out just like a standard bookshop and so its instantly easier to browse if you're unfamiliar with the format of graphic novels! I've been visiting since the second year of the bookshop crawl, and always buy something. Last visit I added to my Giant Days collection.

Hatchards (Piccadilly, central London)

Hatchards is gorgeous (and so old!). I think my first visit was in 2018, but honestly it could have been before that. I quite often get so distracted by browsing in here that I forget to buy any books (I know, I know), but it is so gorgeous and so labyrinthine that it's hard to concentrate.

Herne Hill Books (Herne Hill, South London)

Maybe the tiniest bookshop in London? In 2020's Bunk off and book shop event, we collaboratively accidentally knocked over almost an entire bookshelf when somebody turned around too fast (don't worry, we put it all back of course!). I recommend visiting on your own (or being prepared to stand outside and wait your turn in a 'two in, two out' type of way). I bought Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde here years ago.

Housmans (Kings Cross, central London)

Housmans is a brilliant radical bookshop which I wouldn't have discovered without the bookshop crawl, and which now features in most of my visits to London! On my most recent visit, to deliver leaflets for the London Bookshop Crawl this year, I bought After Sex, an anthology about reproductive justice edited by Edna Bonhomme and Alice Spawls and published by Silver Press, who really know how to make their books look beautiful together on your shelves! I always feel like a visit to Housmans expands my thinking!

Judd Books (Kings Cross, Central London)

Another example of what you can do with not a lot of space, and a favourite fixture of our kings cross routes these days, Judd Books is packed from floor to ceiling (and downstairs too) with second hand and remaindered books so you're guaranteed a bargain. I first visited in 2019 and visit several times a year since. My most recent purchase here was Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi, which I can't wait to read.

Kew Bookshop (Kew, SW London)

This is another lovely indie bookshop and a regular part of our Richmond & Kew group bookshop crawls. Kew is quiet and refined and so is their selection of books. I last visited with my sister, nieces and a friend in November of 2023, and we had a lovely time looking at all the picture books with my niece! I bought myself And So This is Christmas: 51 Seasonally Adjusted Poems by Brian Bilston, whose hilarious poetry I was familiar with through instagram.

Lloyds of Kew (Kew, SW London)

Another London Bookshop Crawl favourite, and one I found through running the first Richmond & Kew Bunk off and Book Shop in 2019, Lloyds of Kew is a second hand and antiquarian treasure trove. I love the book tree bookshelf that they have in their back room, and the friendly welcome from Helen, the owner, who often manages to produce tea and biscuits as if from nowhere! On my last visit I didn't actually get to go in as my niece was sleeping in her pushchair and her mother doesn't get to go to English language bookshops very often, so I stayed with the baby!

Libreria (Brick Lane, East London)

This will be forever memorialised as the bookshop we walked so far to visit on the second year of the bookshop crawl (aka the mad year). It's definitely a concept bookshop, and the mirrored back wall isn't for everyone, I like that it is organised by book subject rather than alphabetically (I do love a quirky ordering system), and it is a very photogenic bookshop!

London Review Bookshop (Bloomsbury, Central London)

I visited this brilliant bookshop for the first time on the very first London Bookshop crawl back in 2016, but it took me until late 2023 to finally manage to have cake at the attached cake shop! I can confirm it was worth the wait, and also that I've never left this bookshop empty handed. I love the curation, and the hardback releases table (I hate hardbacks and almost never buy them) always reminds me what to look out for in paperback on future bookshop crawls!

Lutyens and Rubinstein (Notting Hill, West London)

This bookshop has recently been acquired by Daunt Books and is now known at The L&R Bookshop, so I may update this entry when I visit for this years' Bunk off and Book Shop event, but on previous visits (during the 2018, 2019 and 2020 bookshop crawls) I've loved the curation of this bookshop. I bought my favourite ever cookbook here, Midnight Chicken and other recipes worth living for by Ella Risbridger, and I will forever be grateful to them for that!

Moon Lane Books (Catford, South East London)

We visited Moon Lane Books with our kids on a pre-bookshop crawl reccie in late 2019. The plan was to run a group bookshop crawl in Forest Hill & the surrounding area for 2020's 5th London Bookshop Crawl, but the group was eventually cancelled. However this bookshop is fantastic, and has a hidden train for kids to spot as well as loads of incredible childrens, YA and event a few adult books! We bought a few things, including a Dress up superheroes magnetic kit for our youngest, and several books.

Newham Bookshop (Newham, East London)

This is one of those bookshops which looks innocuous from the outside but then you step inside and the books are absolutely everywhere! We visited before their move (I think our visit was in 2018 or 19 but I'm unsure on specifics), and the general bookshop and children's bookshop were next door with an interconnected passageway (I think they still have a similar set up) and the whole shop is just 'could get lost in it for hours and forget what day of the week it is' vibes. I bought The Year of Magical Thinking, my first (but definitely not my last) Joan Didion!

Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange (Notting Hill, West London)

One of my favourite memories of a bookshop crawl happened in the Notting Hill Comic Exchange (the shops are 2 separate shops next door to each other, one for books, one for comics). It was 2019 and I had my six year old helping me lead a group. This was our last stop of the route and he had found himself a comic he liked and got comfortable lying on his stomach on the floor. I kept offering to move him for people but nobody would let me and many customers carefully made their way around him to continue their browsing, while telling me how nice it was to see a small child so absorbed in a book. Both shops are full of unexpected treasures, and usually these are books and not small children, engrossed in their reading!

Notting Hill Bookshop (Notting Hill, West London)

Another bookshop I visited on our first bunk off event in 2018. This is another lovely indie that makes good use of limited space and is very photogenic! I know I've bought lots of books here, but the only one I remember is Where's my Sloth? which my eldest puppy dog eyed me into getting them.

The Open Book (Richmond, Sw London)

I first visited this lovely bookshop in 2019 on our first Richmond & Kew event and have been going back ever since. I love the way that they organise their bookshelves with angled side on books and the curation is excellent, especially in such a small space!

Owl Bookshop (Kentish Town, NW London)

This is a lovely, spacious bookshop with a great selection and lots of room to browse as well as great stationery! I visited recently on my pre 2024 bookshop crawl prep trip and am looking forward to going back.

Oxfam Bookshop (Bloomsbury, Central London)

This is Oxfam's flagship bookshop and is lovely. I first visited in 2018, after our first book swap brunch, to donate the leftover books, and pop in whenever I'm passing now. The last thing I bought here was on the Bloomsbury Bookshop Crawl in October 2023 and was The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz.

Oxfam Bookshop (Ealing, West London)

This is probably my most regularly visited Oxfam Bookshop these days and one I've been visiting since way before the beginning of the bookshop crawl. It's a lovely space and I've picked up many brilliant books from there.

Oxfam Bookshop (Kingston, SW London)

I actually used to volunteer at this Oxfam Bookshop many moons ago, and its probably responsible for the beginning of my book acquisition hobby. It's a great charity bookshop and you're guaranteed a bargain. I've bought many things from here over the years, the most used of which is my pancakes cookbook!

Pages of Hackney (Hackney, East London)

A gorgeous indie bookshop and one of my more recent visits when I went on a yarn and bookshop crawl with my friend Katie in September 2023. This is such a cosy bookshop and has a little downstairs area too! I bought Hagitude: Reimagining the Second Half of Life by Sharon Blackie as a gift for a friend here and had a lovely chat with the bookseller.

Parade's End Books (Ham, SW London)

Another of London's newer bookshops, we stopped in on our way home from the 2022 London Bookshop Crawl weekend and were big fans of the children's craft table in the back as well as the great selection of books!

THe Pitshanger Bookshop (Pitshanger, West London)

This is another lovely indie bookshop I've been visiting for a few years as it's near to my family and I pop in when visiting them. It's a beautiful, calm space very conducive to browsing and buying lots of books!

Primrose Hill Books (Primrose Hill, North London)

Another one from my recent pre-bookshop crawl trip, this is an indie bookshop in my favourite genre of 'tiny space packed with books'. I bought The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper because I don't remember having read it.

Rye Books (Dulwich, South London)

One I first visited on 2020's Bunk off and Book Shop with a fantastic cafe space alongside the books. I bought a volume of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman here, and it makes a great mid or end of a bookshop crawl stop!

Skoob Books (Kings Cross, central London)

Subterranean labyrinth of second hand books, I love it here. I don't have phone signal when I'm browsing so I can't possibly be distracted from all the amazing finds. I've bought many things over time here and always enjoy visiting.

Stanfords (Covent Garden, central London)

It took me way longer than it should have to get to Stanfords, but thanks to Storm Eunice and our groups being cancelled, I finally made a trip there with my family in 2022. It's a travel and map bookshop and has a fantastic array of books across all aspects of travel, including a gorgeous kids section.

Stoke Newington Bookshop (Stoke Newington, East London)

Another long time participant in the bookshop crawl, I visited on my yarn and bookshop crawl with my friend in September and loved it! It's a big bookshop, bright and beautiful and full of all sorts of inspiring book choices. I bought something but I don't remember what (possibly because I buy too many books, but then again how many is too many?)

Village Books (Dulwich, South London)

Another teeny tiny bookshop with lots of amazing books. Another discovery from 2020, and another lovely, soothing space.

Word on the Water (Kings Cross, Central London)

The bookshop on a boat! I wrote more about my love for this bookshop in this months members blog on our Ko-fi, but I've been coming here since 2017 and absolutely love it. My most recent purchase was volume 5 of Alice Oseman's Heartstopper.

As well as all of these, I've also visited Daunt Books in Marylebone, which was fantastic and almost infinitely browsable, and also several Waterstones branches including Piccadilly (which I personally find both amazing and overwhelming), Gower Street (amazing - seems to go on forever) and Trafalgar Square (really great children's section) as well (of course) as Foyles Charing Cross Road.

This is a big old list of bookshops, but there are so many in London that I have still to visit!

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