I have a hobby, although my family would probably call it a bad habit, and it’s meeting people from online for adventures. It’s stood me in good stead so far, having explored Poland with a woman who is now one of my closest friends and hopped around America doing everything from sight seeing, to kareoke to drunkenly chasing deers while naked and trying to kayak to Hawaii from Washington (turns out, you can’t).
So I had high hopes for yesterday’s #LondonBookshopCrawl and I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t get neatly enough photos, but the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram is full of people who did a much better job than me (and @mattdawhit’s Storify is great) Our plan was to meet in Foyles cafe at Charing Cross and then move on as a group of 23 around @ninjabookswap’s list of shops that were expecting us.
First… Orbital Comics.
Now, I’ve always had a fairly negative relationship with comics, having lived with a guy who told me I should be reading them instead of ‘books by dead Russian authors in prison for their political beliefs’. But I’ve mellowed recently and I do see the joy they bring other people. Not my thing, glad so many people love them, that makes me happy. I gather that it’s a wonderful store, and the layout was great for even a comic cretin like myself. I even bought myself a couple of bargain comics as souvenirs! Staff were friendly, everyone seemed happy.
I won’t show you the comics I bought as my flatmate has since inspected and shook his head sadly – they were more to do with Watchmen and less to so with Alan Moore – but they only cost me 25p.
Then on to… Any Amount of Books and Cecil Court!
I didn’t actually make it into Any Amount of Books, having spent too long wandering around Cecil Court but that place was incredible.
I went in every shop for a nosey, but I was particularly enamoured with Peter Ellis, who sold me James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk. The shelves were lined with lovingly wrapped first editions and very well laid out. And, who I presume was Mr Ellis himself although I could be wrong, was a very welcoming man who happily, if somewhat confused, signed my piece of paper to say I’d bought a book there. Marchpane was another favourite, with an entire section dedicated to Alice in Wonderland.
And then there was Goldsboro Books, which broke my heart with it’s selection of first editions. So many of my favourites, so much more than I could hope to spend on books.
Next… Lunch. A few of us stopped by Byron’s, predominantly because it was there, for burgers, fries and milkshakes. This vegetarian had a salad because there are only so many veggie burgers you can have in a lifetime.
Persephone were expecting us and gave us the warmest of welcomes. We were treated to a small tour of this tiny publishing house and a talk on the history, aims and some book recommendations tailored to whoever asked. There’s a genuine love here and it’s a fine example of people who love and breathe what they do. They have 115 books in their catalogue, mainly by women, all well thought out. Each has a grey jacket and a printed endpaper based on a fabric produced in the year the book was originally published. Which is a wonderful touch.
This was a lovely bookshop, made more lovely by the welcome they gave us. Discount and some goodies never go amiss. I could have spent hours in there, but forced myself to a budget and in the end bought Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life after being recommended it a while ago by a colleague.
Our final stop... Waterstone’s Piccadilly.
Probably the biggest Waterstone’s I have ever been in but by this point in the day all I wanted was cake and a sit down. So @giants_orbit and I went down to the cafe for the largest slices of cake I have ever seen.
It was one of the best days out I have had. There’s something lovely about meeting up with people with a specific interest and I’m already planning my next bookshop trips and to go along to a book club run by @HaggyT.
Looking forward to next year