I love London. It is full of wonderful museums and galleries, a dizzying array of theatres, beautiful historic buildings and neighbourhoods, world-class shopping, and, most alluring of all, an overwhelming number of bookstores, both new and used. And I don’t hide my priorities when I visit: I go to London to buy books, taking advantage of the amazing variety on offer and, to my Canadian eyes at least, the amazingly cheap prices. Everything else I do there is just a bonus.
I had a wonderful time visiting various book stores. I devoted one whole afternoon to book shopping, darting through Bloomsbury, Notting Hill and Kensington. It was wonderful. I only bought books from a few of the stores I visited while in others I just spent happy hours exploring. I went into Hatchards for the first time ever while waiting to meet a friend at Fortnum and Mason and completely fell in love with it. I did not buy anything there but was tempted by everything I saw. Everything is so beautifully laid out there and I was particularly awed by the two whole shelves devoted to the beautiful Overlook Press editions of P.G. Wodehouse’s books.
Here are the books I brought back with me:
Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – a wonderful history of St Philip’s School in London. It is short and funny and made for the perfect airplane book on the flight home.
The Northern Fells and The Central Fells by Alfred Wainwright – bookish souvenirs from the Lake District.
The Real Mrs Miniver by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – a biography of Joyce Anstruther, aka Jan Struther, written by her granddaughter and recently reprinted as a beautiful Slightly Foxed Edition in the most amazing shade of blue.
Rosabelle Shaw by D.E. Stevenson – another find at Slightly Foxed. I don’t know much about it but for £4 I was willing to risk it.
The Crocodile by the Door by Selina Guinness – a relatively new release, I had been eyeing this at Waterstones and other new bookstores but resisting. When I found it in a used bookstore on Charing Cross Road, I pounced.
Peace Breaks Out by Angela Thirkell – I was keeping my eye out for this Thirkell throughout my bookstore wanderings and was thrilled to find it at Slightly Foxed.
The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope – more Trollope! I am always interested in expanding my Trollope collection and was happy to find this Oxford World’s Classic edition at Skoob in Bloomsbury.
And, of course, there was a trip to the lovely Persephone shop where I picked up six new books to add to my collection.
The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart
The Montana Stories by Katherine Mansfield
The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes
I did well, I think, but it is probably for the best (at least for my crowded bookshelves) that I only visit London every two or three years rather than every time I go to Europe!