Saturday 25th June was the third annual independent bookshop crawl, to celebrate the 10th Independent Booksellers Week. I’ve taken part in both of the previous bookshop crawls (2014, 2015), and had a great time. However, it did make choosing bookshops rather tricky, so we didn’t just go to the same ones as usual. So when Saturday came around, I put on my most stripes (the dress had pockets, the necklace is cool, and I had painted the bisexual pride flag on my nails specially for Pride), prepared a route, and headed off into the sunshine.
We decided a good place to start would be Waterloo, as we can both get there pretty easily, so we met just after 10. First stop: little Foyles! Open for a little over two years (this blog written after its first week is lovely), this branch of Foyles is a great place to spend a few minutes if you’ve missed a train, or while waiting for someone. We weren’t in there very long – I paused to take pictures of the displays, which were excellent, then we had a little look at the top picks at the front of the store. We found ourselves in the cookbook section: I’ve written before about my love of cookbooks, and I looked at a few before settling on one about breakfast. I’m really excited about it, and not just because it matches my necklace (which is from Blackheart Creatives, who you should check out because everything is amazing). Lauren found The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book, with recipes for the Burger Of The Day from episodes of the show (which she keeps trying to get me to watch).
Next, we went off to Travelling Through… on Lower Marsh, but this was a bit of a failure of planning as it turned out they don’t open until 11… whoops. I’ll definitely be back, though – it’s not far from work, and everywhere else I’ve been on Lower Marsh has been excellent. We had a similar problem on our first crawl, when Herne Hill Books was closed. Tragedy!
We took a bus north and walked over to Brick Lane to visit Libreria. I’d heard a lot about Libreria, which opened earlier this year. I’d heard about its “no phones” signs, and the massive table in the middle that made it difficult to get around if there were more than two customers in there. I’d heard that it wasn’t particularly welcoming, too. It was much prettier than I expected, with yellow shelves and a lot of light, and the mirrored back wall (which Lauren didn’t notice until she was practically pressed up against it) is very effective. I was interested in the choice of books on the table (though I did have to dance about a bit so another customer could get to the till) and picked up one of the books on it, Garlic, Mint & Sweet Basil: Essays on Marseilles, Mediterrean Cuisince and Noir Fiction, which looked interesting and also a good contribution to my endeavour to read more nonfiction! The organisation of the books on the shelves, though, I found confusing, and I think it is probably a lot better suited to browsing than looking for something you actually want. I found the “no phones” annoying considering there was music playing, though to be fair, I checked my phone and also took photos, so it’s clearly not enforced much. The space is gorgeous, and I really like the little space tucked away at the end, but I’m not entirely convinced… I’m looking forward to the book, though!
We paused in our bookshop endeavour to go to Spitalfields City Farm, where two of our friends work, because we thought one of them would be working. Turns out I just got my days mixed up, and she was doing a Butterfly Walk somewhere else entirely. GOOD. But it was lovely to wander around and feel peaceful and look at some animals, including a cow who looked like it was trying to escape, and a donkey braying and sounding like it couldn’t possibly be real!
We paused to buy ice lollies and carried on along Brick Lane to the Brick Lane Bookshop. Nothing leapt out at either of us this time – though I suspect that’s largely because we’re both trying to spend as little as possible before going on holiday in under two weeks. I really liked the layout of the shop, and how lots of the books are facing out. I’ll be sure to swing by again next time I’m over that way.
Next stop was very, very important: beigels. Beigel Bake (the one with the white sign and red and blue writing) is the beigel shop, and for good reason: it’s bloody amazing, and it’s open 24/7. Usually, when I visit, I’ll bring home a bag of plain beigels for my family, but I didn’t fancy carrying them around for the rest of the day, so it was just a hot salt beef beigel (pickle, no mustard) for me, a salmon and cream cheese one for Lauren, and we sat in the park to eat them. Go. You will not be disappointed.
We had intended to go to Bookends in Exmouth Market next, but the walking involved in getting there was just a bit much to face. I need to head back there, as they specialise in children’s books, and I owe my nephew a book (he’s just moved house, and I promised him a book in the post). So we got on a bus and headed to Kings Cross to visit Housman’s, a radical bookshop which I’ve been wanting to visit for a while. I loved the layout of the shop, and felt like I could have spent hours in there. I picked up a lot of books but, as I said earlier, I was trying not to spend much, so limited myself to only one. I decided on The Rent Trap and I’m really looking forward to reading it, and having some excellent points for arguing. I’m catsitting in Islington in August, so I might have a stroll along and see what I can pick up or catch an event.
From there, we looked at the traffic and decided to walk to French’s Theatre Bookshop in Warren Street, discussing what to pack for our holiday (ahhhh!!!). We both love the theatre, and I knew Lauren would like this one especially, considering how she likes reading plays. It’s a lovely, bright shop, with lots of windows and low shelves. I didn’t get anything, but Lauren got a copy of Sunday In The Park With George by Stephen Sondheim.
We then walked down through Fitzrovia towards Foyles. Saturday was also Pride, so being able to join in for a while was really emotional and brilliant. Rainbows, and music, and dancing, and beautiful smiling people. We figured we might as well enjoy ourselves, and went down Old Compton Street to Gosh! Comics, where we cooed over Star Wars comics before Lauren got the latest Lucy Knisley book, Something New.
As we headed back along Old Compton Street, through all the joyful people, we remembered that Minalima have a shop in Soho for a while. Minalima, amongst other things, did a lot of the graphic design for the Harry Potter films, and it was lovely to look at some of their work in more detail. They’ve also got a display of some of their other work, including an A – Z of collective nouns, which are so beautiful and clever. I was especially drawn to their editions of Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, both full of beautiful art, including maps and charts, many with moving parts. But I stuck to my guns and didn’t buy anything – though I’ll certainly be back for both of those once I’ve got a bit more money available!
Finally, we went round the corner to Foyles. Lovely big Foyles, with its light and airy spaces and a knack for swallowing up people. We saw my friend Holly, who is half of the Bookish Blether podcast team, while we were there, and it was lovely to have a catchup with her. We didn’t end up buying anything in Foyles, but it was ncie just to be there. I coveted a book about Brutalist architecture, while Lauren looked baffled by my love of it (this is a theme), but I stayed strong! *bicep emoji*
By then, it was getting pretty late, and we’d been on our feet for a long time. We made our way to Trafalgar Square, snaking through the Pride celebrations and pausing to look at everything going on there. The green man on each pedestrian crossing was changed for the celebrations, and we loved that. It took us forever to cross, but it was great to be caught up in everything. Last year’s Bookshop Crawl and Pride were on the same day last year, which also happened to be two days after I got dumped and came out to my family – momentous, but I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for being surrounded by people (especially happy ones), or, really, doing anything. I thought a lot about that during the day, and how much things have changed for me in the past year, and it was pretty damn emotional, and really wonderful to be able to appreciate the joy of Pride this time around. We paused in St James Park to look for ducklings, and then it was time to head home. It turned out that, through all our wanderings, I walked eleven miles on Saturday. Sore knees, indeed.
While the two previous years’ crawls were fun for their desperate attempt to get to as many shops as possible, this was fun because we didn’t do that at all. We were very relaxed about the whole thing, and it was good to explore new places, and revisit favourites. A lovely lovely day. Thanks, BAMB!