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Specialist bookshops in London for every kind of book lover

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Lauren Geall
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Best specialist bookshops in London

It’s National Bookshop Day this Saturday (5 October), so why not spend your weekend wandering the aisles of some of London’s most unique specialist bookshops.

It’s safe to say London is one of the best places to be a bookworm.

Not only do the capital’s winding, narrow streets hide some of the most famous literary locations in the world, but they also conceal some of the best specialist bookshops in the country, which are often home to rare or previously undiscovered pieces of literature.

So as the country marks National Bookshop Day this weekend, what better way to celebrate than spending your weekend wandering among the shelves and displays of a few specialist bookshops in the hope of uncovering a new favourite novel, poem or piece of non-fiction.

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If you don’t know where to get started, this guide to London’s best specialist bookshops will send you in the right direction. From a treasure trove of LGBTQ+ literature to the home of previously unrecognised women writers, these shops will open your mind to stories and events you’ve likely never heard of before.  

Persephone Books, Bloomsbury

Independent publisher Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction from mid-twentieth century women writers. Founded in 1998, the shop is home to a variety of ‘lost’ texts, but they’re all covered in the same signature grey Persephone jacket. 

Find them at 59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB. 

Stanfords, Covent Garden

Stanfords is the UK’s leading retailer of maps, travel books and other travel-related accessories. After spending over 100 years in Long Acre, Covent Garden, Stanfords relocated their flagship store in January to their new home on Mercer Walk. 

Find them at 7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9FA

Gay’s the Word, Bloomsbury

Gay’s the Word is currently one of two LGBT+ dedicated bookshops in the UK, but holds the title of the first gay and lesbian bookshop founded in the UK. Founded in 1979, the bookshop is home to a large collection of LGBTQ+ literature and  hosts regular events and discussion groups throughout the year. 

Find them at 66 Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AB.

The Atlantis Bookshop, Bloomsbury

The Atlantis Bookshop holds the title of London’s oldest independent occult bookshop. The shop stocks a variety of books and rare texts on magic, as well as a selection of magic ware and tarot cards. They also host a number of events, too - they even hold regular ritual meetings in their basement. 

Find them at 49a Museum Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1A 1LY.

Pleasures of Past Times, Covent Garden

If you love a bit of nostalgia, this one’s for you. Pleasures of Past Times in Covent Garden is home to a whole host of pop culture material - you’ll find everything from Pink Floyd memorabilia to first world war posters. 

Find them at 11 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ.

The Second Shelf, Soho

The Second Shelf is a bookshop dedicated to rare books, modern first editions, manuscripts, and rediscovered works by women. Their picture-perfect shop in Soho is a must visit for anyone looking to discover new female writers. 

Find them at 14 Smiths Court, London, W1D 7DW. 

New Beacon Books, Finsbury Park

New Beacon Books are London’s specialists in African and Caribbean literature. Founded in 1966, the shop was the UK’s first black publisher, specialist bookshop and international book distributor. Despite almost closing in 2016/17, the shop was able to survive thanks to a crowd funding campaign. 

Find them at 76 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 3EN

Bookmarks, Fitzrovia

Bookmarks is a dedicated socialist bookshop which stocks titles covering topics from politics, and economics to trade unionism and the environment. They also stock a collection of DVD’s and CD’s, as well as hosting regular events.

Image: Getty

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