London Bookshops

ImageI was in London recently so decided to have a look at a few bookshops.  I’ve been there a couple of times before but never found time to explore bookshops.  The main bookshop hub is around Charing Cross Road.  First I went to Foyles Books which is, apparently, one of Europe’s largest bookshops with five floors and over 200,000 titles.  There’s a huge range of books here as well as a large selection of more leftfield magazines.  There is an entire floor of books in foreign languages.  I was amazed to see two shelves of books in Irish.  you’d struggle to find bookshops in Dublin with Irish language books outside the school section (Irish language is compulsory and a passing grade is required to get into most universities).  If you’re studying a language this would be the ideal place to get some books.  interestingly there are signs around the shop telling people it’s forbidden to take photos of books.  I presume this is to stop people browsing and then buying the books cheaper online.  There is a also a good art book sections, a café, and a medical section (I bought a keyring in the shape of a human hand’s skeleton there).  I bought two books, The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990-1990 and An Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will.  Disappointingly, for a cheapo like me, there was no bargain basement obviously discounted books but there’s plenty here to keep any bibliophile occupied for a while.

Unfortunately I didn’t realise that a lot of the smaller bookshops were closed on Sunday.  I did manage to get into a couple of secondhand bookshops.  These were both stacked floor to ceiling with thousands of books.  The prices varied widely from a couple of quid to over £50.  You can see the colonial influence with plenty of old books on Africa, the Middle East, and east Asia.

I got an Ogden Nash book for £3.50, an anthology of crime stories for £5, and the wonderfully titled Kelly’s Handbook to the Landed and Official Classes 1953.  The Kelly’s Handbook is a wonderful example of England’s (gradually disappearing) obsession with class.  I presume it could be used to check on the pedigress of potential spouses or to prepare possible conversation topics during a pheasant (or peasant) shoot.  It’s a heft tome and weighs in at almost 2.5 kg so I had to make sure my bag was fairly snugly packed to meet Ryanair’s 10kg carry-on limit…

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