INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOPS

When it comes to literary cities, they don’t come much bigger than London – just think how many novels have been set here and writers who have worked here – so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the capital is bursting with bookshops. Yes the big chains are all here but there are a ton of fantastic independent bookshops that are well worth exploring.

There are specialist shops like The Second Shelf, stocked with rare and antiquarian books, modern first editions, manuscripts and rediscovered works by women; Gay’s The Word, which is the oldest independent LGBT+ bookshop in the UK; and Round Table Books, a Black-owned bookshop in Brixton that specialises in children’s literature with diverse characters (in terms of race, gender and disability) and inclusive stories.

And then there are bookshops that just like to do things a bit differently, like Liberia by Second Home, which arranging the shelves by broad themes like ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Utopia’ and ‘The City’, rather than by category to encourage discovery, and Word On The Water, which is a floating bookshop moored on the canal.

WORD ON THE WATER

Word On The Water, Regent's Canal Towpath, London, UK

This floating bookshop on a 100-year-old Dutch barge actually used to make its way up and down the canal but now it’s moored by Granary Square (so at least you know where to find it). Go for the books – they have a range of second-hand tomes and new releases plus some quirky titles, as you’d expect from a bookshop on a boat – stay for the dog and one of the live music performances on the roof if you’re lucky.

ROUND TABLE BOOKS

97 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8PS, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

This Black-owned bookshop in Brixton specialises in children’s literature with diverse characters (in terms of race, gender and disability) and inclusive stories. The shop actually started life as a pop-up to celebrate the first anniversary of Knights Of, the publishing company run by founders Aimée Felone and David Stevens, but it was such a success that they turned it into a permanent store.

BRICK LANE BOOKSHOP

166 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Brick Lane Bookshop has been around for more than 40 years and it’s been an integral part of the local community ever since – it was born out of protest and collaboration and it’s kept that spirit intact. They even run an annual Short Story Prize to give new and emerging writers the opportunity to be published. The shop stocks fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, poetry, travel, essays, classics and more, and the team are more than happy to give recommendations, so defo ask if you need a little guidance.

THE SECOND SHELF

14 Smith's Ct, London W1D 7DW, UK

If you’re looking for feminist literature and work by women, head for The Second Shelf. The bookshop, tucked away in a quiet Soho courtyard, was set up by writer A.N. Devers after she noticed that the rare book trade was dominated by male writers and male booksellers. The Second Shelf is stocked with rare and antiquarian books, modern first editions, manuscripts and rediscovered works by women, with over 3000 titles across pretty much every subject to browse.

GAY'S THE WORD

66 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 1:00 – 6:00 PM

Gay’s The Word is the oldest independent LGBT+ bookshop in the UK. It was set up as a community space (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners held their first meetings here during the strike of 84-85) and community events are still held in the store to this day. The shelves are packed with a range of books spanning fiction, non-fiction, classics, plays, poetry, history, graphic novels, queer studies and more.

PAGES OF HACKNEY

70 Lower Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton, London E5 0RN, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Pages of Hackney is an award-winning independent bookshop on the Lower Clapton Road. You’ll find a right mix of titles of their shelves, including contemporary and classic fiction, as well as children’s books, politics, environment, art, cookery and second-hand books too. If you can’t get to the actual store, you can also browse their books online and order them for collection, local delivery (by bike) and nationwide delivery.

DULWICH BOOKS

6 Croxted Rd, London SE21 8SW, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Thursday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Friday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Saturday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Dulwich Books have been around since 1981 and since the beginning they’ve been committed to offering a quality service to the community, including local schools and colleges. They stock a wide range of books and have access to over 650,000 titles (most of which can be collected by the end of the next day), including fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children’s books. Their team are mega experienced and helpful so take advantage of their recommendations.

NEW BEACON BOOKS

76 Stroud Green Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 3EN, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: Closed
  • Friday: 12:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

New Beacon was the UK’s first black publisher, specialist bookshop and international book distributor founded back in 1966 by John La Rose and his partner Sarah White. These guys make poetry, literature, non-fiction, history and children’s books from Africa, Caribbean, Asia, African America, Europe and South America available to the community and this Finsbury Park bookstore has played an important role in the Caribbean Artists Movement as well as in Black British culture in general.

LUTYENS & RUBINSTEIN

21 Kensington Park Rd, London W11 2EU, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Lutyens & Rubinstein is an independent book shop in Notting Hill run by renowned literary agents and friends Sarah (Lutyens) and Felicity (Rubinstein). Just a stone’s throw from Portobello Road, they specialise in stocking fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, coffee-table tomes and children’s books, and everything you find on their shelves has its place because somebody loves it and has recommended it. Expect the best of the best.

LIBRERIA

65 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 6:00 PM

A bookshop from the team behind co-working spaces Second Home, Libreria does things a little differently by arranging the shelves by broad themes like ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Utopia’ and ‘The City’, rather than by category to encourage discovery and help you stumble on something you may not have found otherwise. There are little nooks throughout the space where you can dive into a book and Libreria has a packed cultural calendar of events to get involved in too.

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