So, the next stage of England’s easing of lockdown restrictions has officially gone ahead, which means we can dine inside, go to cinemas and, crucially, go book shopping with people outside of our household bubbles! I’ve compiled a list of 5 independent bookshops in London to put at the top of your agenda. These are a mixture of ones I’ve been to and loved, and ones that are still on my list to visit (which I will hopefully be doing in early June!). They’re not in ranked order, I’m just starting with the ones I have already visited and loved. I’m also not affiliated with any of these shops, though if any of them are looking for new booksellers, I am available and very, very interested.
- Gay’s The Word
Right in the heart of London, just a short distance from St. Pancras Station, is Gay’s The Word. Established in 1979, Gay’s The Word claims to be the oldest LGBT bookstore in the UK. While a small shop, it stocks a great range of LGBT+ fiction and non-fiction, and it’s also really cute. A lot of people are familiar with Gay’s The Word from the 2014 film Pride, in which the store features. I visited this shop once back in 2017, after my friend who lived in London told me he knew a place I’d love, and took me straight here. He was right: I loved it. You can find Gay’s The Word at 66 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AB.
- Judd Books
This is one that I visited recently, not long after restrictions were lifted and bookshops were actually open for shopping in again. Judd Books stocks a wide range of secondhand and new books, and offers great discounts on a massive range of books. Also located within walking distance of St. Pancras Station, the location is ideal, and they have a massive selection available. Their nonfiction and reference section is much more extensive than their fiction section, however. Set across two floors, they have a massive range of nonfiction focusing on different cultures and world history, as well as politics and philosophy. Literally down the road from Gay’s The Word, you can find Judd Books at 82 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AG.
- Skoob Books
Yet another in this immediate area, Skoob Books is a haven for secondhand books. Their fiction section is more extensive than that at Judd’s, and they also have a lot of old editions of books for sale, which I love! Their nonfiction section is also really impressive, and this is a great place for academics and students to go to look for books in their field. Because they sell secondhand books, you can find a great bargain here, as well as books that definitely wouldn’t be on offer in your standard chain bookstore. Skoob Books has two locations in the Brunswick, and I’d definitely recommend checking out the permanent store if you have to pick just one. You can find their permanent store at Unit 66 (round the side) The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AE.
- West End Lane Books
The first on this list that I’ve not yet managed to visit, West End Lane Books has made this list for their amazing customer service during the lockdown! When I’ve contacted them to order books they’ve always been lovely, and so helpful. Their Twitter feed is also really heartwarming, and photos of the shop look really cute, so keep an eye on my Instagram because photos or a reel will probably appear on there once I’ve visited! Of all the shops listed so far, WEL Books is probably your best bet for general fiction and new releases. It’s a bit further out, in West Hampstead, but I think it’ll definitely be worth the visit. Find them at 227 West End Lane, NW6 1QS.
- Burley Fisher Books
The final store on this list, Burley Fisher has made this list primarily for its Twitter account, which I really enjoy. In October, they’re hosting a weekend festival to celebrate 5 years of trading, which is very exciting news. If they don’t have a book you’re after on their shelves, chances are they can order it in for you from their suppliers. They sell secondhand books as well as new books, if it’s a bargain you’re after! They also have a podcast, and run online events, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on their social media accounts if you’re not located in London for all the virtual content they have on offer. If you are in London, however, and fancy a trip over to Hackney, you can find Burley Fisher Books at 400 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA.