London is a book shopping paradise. I bought seventeen books while I was there and I could have easily doubled or tripled that number. I had to restrain myself to one or two books per bookshop. Yes, we went to a lot of bookshops. My husband is a very patient man.
Let's start with the bookshop I absolutely was not going to miss. Come hell or high water, I was going to Persephone Books. I love this shop. The books are pretty, the staff is friendly, and I have never bought a book there that I didn't like. Plus, there is a coffee shop conveniently next door for my husband. This time I bought:
The Priory by Dorothy Whipple. I am slowly making my way through her books. I buy one each time.
Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd. I read a review of it somewhere. It sounded funny and is set during WWII. Just my type of thing.
The Fortnight In September by RC Sherriff. I was having a hard time picking a third book (it is three books for 30 pounds or 12 pounds each, obviously I was going to buy three) when I overheard one of the staff raving about it on the phone with another indecisive customer. Then, when I went to pay another member of the staff told me it was one of her absolute favorites. I can't wait to read it.
Another charming bookshop full of books I didn't even know I wanted. Though, actually, the book I bought here is one I was looking for. I bought A Notable Woman--The romantic journals of Jean Lucey Pratt, edited by Simon Garfield. I have read all his diary compilations using sources from the Mass Observation Organization and greatly enjoyed them. Jean Lucey Pratt was quoted extensively in some of his other volumes. I am looking forward to getting to know her better.
Daunt Books might possibly be the prettiest bookshop I have ever been in. It is just gorgeous and full of equally amazing books. I bought My Dear Bessie-- A Love Story In Letters, also edited by Simon Garfield. I heard excerpts of it read on the BBC with Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey playing the parts of Chris and Bessie. I have wanted to read it ever since.
Waterstones is a chain like Barnes and Noble is here except it puts Barnes and Noble to shame. I can wander around Barnes and Noble and not find anything I really want to buy. I think I want to live in Waterstones. So many books I want, so hard to choose. I bought The Other Elizabeth Taylor by Nicola Beauman. It is published by Persephone Books and I just did a little Googling and Nicola Beauman is the founder of Persephone Books. I didn't realize that when I bought it, I just was happy I found an interesting book on the clearance rack for one pound.
The Southbank Book Market is under Waterloo Bridge and I love it. There is something about browsing through row after row of books while being able to glance up and see the river and iconic London sites. It makes my heart happy and somehow epitomizes London to me. I also love how the noise and commotion of nearby street performers and crowds dies down under the bridge and you just have fellow book lovers meandering up and down the rows, fingers trailing over titles, barely glancing up to dodge around each other. We went twice because the first time was late in the day and they were breaking down the tables and putting the books away. I bought:
A Family and a Fortune by Ivy Compton-Burnett. I have read one other book by her and enjoyed it. Plus, she was mentioned extensively in the diaries of James Lees-Milne that I just read.
Provincial Daughter by R.M. Dashwood. I absolutely love the Provincial Lady series. This is a continuation by her daughter. It could be charming, it could drive me crazy. We shall see.
A London Girl of the 1880s and A London Home in the 1890s, both by M.V. Hughes. The first in this series is published by Persephone. It was one of the books I kept dithering over in the shop. When I found these I really wished I had bought it. I snapped these up anyway and came home and found a copy of the first one online.
This little shop in Hampstead was a bit insane. It was packed with books and was so crowded with boxes and stacks of books you literally could not walk down some of the aisles. I am sure there were lots more treasures in there but I could not see them. I craned my neck and edged my way down as many aisles as I could but eventually had to give up. I did buy two books- Don't tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford and A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor. I found the second one on this lovely shelf of orange Penguins.
This bookshelf was right by the door and I saw it from the street. It is what pulled me in.
The last few books I found at various charity shops that I popped into as we went about our activities for the day. I like the Oxfam bookshops. They seem to have such a good selection. I bought:
My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I have only read one book by him. Everyone else on earth seems to have read this. I thought it was about time I did too.
The Day We Went To War by Terry Charman. My fascination with the home front during WWII is well documented on this blog. I was pleased to find this.
The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor. I automatically buy her books whenever I find one I haven't read.
The House by the Thames and the People Who Lived There by Gillian Tindall. It tells the history of London through the story of one house that has existed for 450 years.
We That Were Young by Irene Rathbone. I hadn't heard of this before but it sounded interesting. It is the semi-autobiographical account of the work of women during the first world war.
There you have the seventeen books I bought in London. I wish I lived there, not just because I love England but also because I love the book culture there. I have said before that I am viewed as a bit of an oddity by many because of my love of books. There are not many bookshops near me unless you count Barnes and Noble. Now, admittedly, I live in a small town in Connecticut and London is a big city but I have lived outside of Chicago as well and I still feel that maybe England has more of a literature based culture. I could be wrong but two different conversations I eavesdropped on made this point to me. (Tell me I am not the only one who is entertained by people watching and a bit of eavesdropping.) The first conversation was when we were coming back from Greenwich on the train. There was a group of businessmen sitting across from me and they were discussing Shakespeare's tragedies. In detail. Not just a passing reference to Hamlet or Macbeth but a detailed discussion of some of his lesser-known, to me, tragedies. I have never had that happen in the US. The second conversation was in Daunt Books. A woman came in looking for a book recommendation. The bookseller asked what she had enjoyed recently. She mentioned a Barbara Pym novel. He immediately recognized it, was able to discuss it with her, and then recommended an Elizabeth Taylor novel. I am pretty sure that if I go into a bookstore near me neither the customers nor the booksellers are going to know who either of those authors are. If you mentioned Elizabeth Taylor they would immediately think of the actress.
So, I am curious, wherever you live, do you feel you have people who appreciate and understand books the way you do? Do you have a lot of exciting bookshops near you? And have you read any of my seventeen books?