Yesterday was the wonderful London Bookshop Crawl, organised by the fantastic (if hopeless navigator) Bex (who also organises the Ninja Book Swap). It was so good to meet Bex, Laura, Ellie and Katie whose blogs I have followed for years, but also everyone else was lovely. Let’s face it, book people are the best. Despite Bex’s husband’s fears, we were all the right kind of weird people off the internet.
So I think the grand total was 23 crawlers and many books were purchased from some independent, and not-so-independent, bookshops. Our first stop was Foyles on Charing Cross Road where we met up and fortified ourselves with caffeinated drinks and the first round of cake. None of us wanted to peak too soon so I don’t think many books were purchased at this stop but we had a chat and received our ration books, which were amazing and made by Ruth and Esther from Bex’s clan).
Our next stop was Orbital Comics. As the name suggests, this is a comic shop who sell both single editions and a wide variety of graphic novels. The recommendations started flying and I bought volume one of Five Ghosts off the back of one (but I can’t remember from who as we still hadn’t learned everyone’s names at that point – why didn’t we think of name badges?!). I also bought Through the Woods and a signed copy of Nimona both of which I keep hearing about from bloggers.
I also wanted to get something a bit random that I wouldn’t normally come across and I thought An Android Awakes sounded interesting, so it went onto my pile. Orbital also gave us copies of the London Bookshop Map which is super useful if you ever want to organise your own crawl. I was tempted to get a single edition of Saga but as I have been reading the volumes, I wasn’t sure where I was at, so I shall just be patient.
Laden down with graphic novels, we walked to our next shop, Any Amount of Books, a second hand and antiquarian bookshop on Charing Cross Road (for those that don’t know London, this is historically the book shop road). We had to split up at this point as there wasn’t enough room for us all, with the rest of the group hanging out in Cecil Court. Whilst there is some organisation, it really is the kind of book shop where you just have to browse and discover something. I found a copy of Wake downstairs and after reading The Ballroom and having seen Ellie’s love for it, I had to get it (and a bargain too).
We wandered round Cecil Court a bit and went to look at expensive first editions in Goldsboro Books (although they do sell some nice editions of new books too, often signed). If you have a spare £7500, you can bag yourself a nice first edition set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy…
Everyone was starting to get hungry after all the walking and book excitement so a bunch of us went for burgers, with plenty more book chat. I’ll repeat again, book people are lovely and everyone got on even though most of us hadn’t met anyone else before. We all at least had books in common.
Next was the highlight of the trip for many, a visit to Persephone Books. Not only a bookshop but also where the publishing magic happens, we all squeezed in for a lovely, enthusiastic talk about what they do and the actual books. We filled the whole shop and scared off one man who had just wandered in to look. Oops! They did such a good job of convincing us all the books are wonderful and I’ve heard a lot about them from bloggers too.
They publish forgotten classics by women writers, mostly 20th century and a mix of fiction and non-fiction. All the covers are the same shade of grey (though they do do a few bookshop friendly editions too) with end papers that are fabric designs from the year the book was originally published. You also get a matching bookmark and if you buy mail order they wrap the book beautifully.
The books are stating to get heavy at this point and many of us were eager for cake. We were warned that London Review of Books didn’t have much room for us in their lovely cake shop, so only a lucky few managed to get cake there. But we did get goodie bags if we bought something. The book shop is dedicated to selling the best books rather than the latest bestsellers, so it’s a great place to browse for books you might not normally find (and then eat cake). They also, of course, produce the magazine which reviews books and we got a copy in the goodie bag (along with useful things like pencils, coasters and a calendar).
As I’d already ticked off graphic novels and classics, I was keen to get some non-fiction at this shop. I picked up Blood: A Biography of the Stuff of Life from the science section and Modern Romance from the tables upstairs.
We were all very tired by this point (and some of us had not had cake) so we skipped Daunt Books which was originally on the itinerary and went straight on to Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe’s largest book shop. We did some sitting. Cake was eaten.
It’s the kind of book shop where there’s so much to look at and buy, it can be kind of daunting if you don’t have a plan. I wanted to buy Josh a Gollancz Masterworks and ending up getting one that I wanted to read (but he would probably read it too, so that’s OK). I have wanted to read A Canticle for Leibowitz since The Fire Sermon event last year (it was part of Francesca’s inspiration) so was happy to find a copy.
I also bought War with the Newts, a translated science fiction classic that has been on my wishlist for quite some time and it was mentioned during the day. So I took it as a sign that it was on one of the tables in Waterstones.
After wandering round the popular science section indecisively I settled on Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found as my final purchase of the day. My feet were pretty dead my the weight of all the books by this point and I had lost most of the other crawlers in this massive shop.
Finally reunited on the floor of the history section, the remaining survivors compared their books and energy levels, whilst Laura talked loudly about Bex’s drug dealer phone (it’s fine fellow book shoppers, no drug deals were taking place, honest). I had planned to stay on for dinner but I was worried my feet wouldn’t survive long enough to get me to the train station, so I called it a night after a very fun day out.
Thanks so much to Bex for organising it and I hope there’ll be a another one! You can check out the #LondonBookshopCrawl hashtag to see what everyone else bought, photos and blog posts. And finally, here’s a photo of the damage to my bank account…
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