Adventures, Books Are My Bag

Independent Booksellers’ Week: #bookshopcrawl

Those of you who follow me on twitter have already been treated to a day of my tweets about this but, for those of you that don’t, today I have been participating, with my friend Lauren, in the bookshop crawl. We were participating in London, but it’s been going on all over the UK. Lauren made a video, so you can see lots of footage of me looking lovingly at books and grinning at the camera.

Vital statistics:

Bookshops visited: 8

Closed bookshops wailed at: 2

Books: 10

££££: we aren’t going to talk about that (but worth every penny)

Selfies: 12

Non-selfies: 16

Buses: 5

Trains: 2

Tubes: 1

Trams: 1

Bags: 3

First, I got very wet while waiting for a bus because, of course, it rained.


We started off at Bookseller Crow, where I bought Maureen Johnson’s The Boy In The Smoke, the short-ish story she wrote for World Book Day, to accompany The Madness Underneath. I hadn’t got round to getting it, so this was a great opportunity.


Then, a bus! To Dulwich Books, where we got a goodie bag, because we were there pretty early. The sun had come out and we were drying off, and excited. I bought three books (Chloe is very good at her job, and also there was a £10 voucher in our goodie bags which was a definite encouragement): Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24hour Book Store, which I adored, so I’m really excited to read this!), Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (set in Russia in WW2), and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (a beautiful book with pictures; I’ve read two of his novels, and loved them, so this should be wonderful!). I had to step away from some children’s books because I do not have children, though I did read one in the shop.



Next, we visited Tales On Moon Lane, which is an enchanting children’s bookshop. Being childless, including of the sibling/cousin/child-of-friend variety, we couldn’t justify buying books there (this time). We did, however, buy some temporary tattoos (I’m having mine as part of my birthday present from Lauren) because we can’t say no to those, ever. It was a lovely shop, and I’ll definitely be back.


We tried, then, to visit Herne Hill Books, but it was closed. We wailed.


Then it was time to change modes of transport onto a train, to Blackfriars – I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cool that station is. We were going to the National Theatre, to visit their bookshop, but it’s closed for their renovation work. SADNESS. On the plus side, the renovations of the theatre look fantastic and I am so excited to see it once it’s all done. Thanks to their Entry Pass scheme (£5 tickets for under-26s), I spend a lot of time there.

We headed across the river, in search of lunch at Leon, which was, as ever, delicious. Also it was good to sit down for a little while as we were a little tired.

Batteries recharged, we were off again! We visited Stanfords, on Longacre, which is a travel and map specialist bookshop. I love maps – I recently spent rather a lot on an antique map of Paris, and even more on getting it framed properly – and travel books, and I was horrified that I’d never even heard of Stanfords, though I’m also delighted that I know now. I bought a travel guide to Costa Rica, where I will be going this autumn, to visit a friend who is working there for a year. A lot of the floor downstairs is a map of London, which made me smile.



Then we headed to Foyles‘ new home on Charing Cross Road. It’s lovely, spacious and full of light, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better. I bought a copy of Medea, because I am seeing it at the National Theatre in a few weeks, and I’d like to be familiar with it. I also got a copy of Alanna by Tamora Pierce, because a friend recommended her books to me, but Lauren is keeping that for my birthday present, so that doesn’t really count.



We were also spotted there by a member of the Books Are My Bag team, who was super friendly and made us even more grinny than we already were:


Out of Foyles and onto – you guessed it! – another bus. Our next bookshop was The London Review of Books Bookshop. The booksellers there were lovely, very chatty, and they had some really interesting stock – including some cool “instead of a card” poems. I bought What Does The Ruling Class Do When It Rules? by Göran Therborn, which looks like a fascinating read on social structure. We also had a little sit down on their rather-comfortable chairs downstairs.



Another bus (!!!) and we made our way to Skoob, a second-hand bookshop. It’s a maze and a treasure trove and I could spend hours – and my wages – in there very easily, but I didn’t buy anything there today. Their books are organised very helpfully, and they also have a piano.



Onto our final stop, Gay’s The Word, a specialist LGBT bookshop where we were greeted with great enthusiasm – not many Bookshop-Crawlers had visited them! They had a box marked “Reduced to queer” which made us laugh, and a wide variety of new and secondhand books about and by gay people. I bought a card, and was very kindly given a signed copy of The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher, their featured book for Independent Booksellers Week. It’s a hefty tome, but promises to be a beautiful and excellent read.



So my total haul (not including the things that Lauren is keeping for my birthday) is this:


Today has been wonderful. It was fun to spend a whole day in bookshops, and it felt like a treasure hunt. I went to new bookshops that I’d never even heard of, as well as ones I had been meaning to visit. I bought books I’d never seen, and met new people, took a lot of selfies, and travelled around London more than I have in a long time. I’m really looking forward to reading all these books, and talking about them – at work, with my friends, with my family, online, maybe even with strangers! – and sharing them.

I – and all the other participants in the day – supported an industry that I care deeply about, and hopefully we’ve raised some awareness. Independent booksellers are vital, and we must look after them and support them whenever we can. I hope this event is repeated next year, so that I can do it all again, with different shops and different books and different people!


7 thoughts on “Independent Booksellers’ Week: #bookshopcrawl”

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