A Guide to the Best Book Stores of London

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It was a beautiful day outside, I wanted to stretch on the lawn of Montagu Square like Annie’s neighbour, read half a book and get drunk in the sun before 2pm. I needed a book, although my stash of unread books had reached an insurmountable level, I needed a new one. Annie took me on a tour of the local bookstores in Marylebone, here are some notes from the day.

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Alef 

On Baker ST next to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which Annie tells me is shit. Alef has a large Arabic Section, a decent enough kids section, and a modicum of Egyptian and cultural. The wrapping paper caught my eye, but overall it was fairly commercial. I said to Annie, ‘I want to find a book that’s under a layer of dust, untouched by the hand of god.’ She tells me she knows just the place. I ask the guy behind the counter for a card, he searches for a coupe of minutes, I tell him to forget it.

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Foster Books

This was a google fail. It was getting hot, my nut-sack had developed some undesired moisture. I’m glad the place was still going, however my day was going to hell in a hand basket. I’d been moaning all morning and Annie told me to fuck off to my circle of sadness (Inside-Out reference). Not in so many words of course, I’m injecting some colour into her vocabulary.

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Daunts

This is more like it. The place was beautifully lit, and the guy behind the desk informed me that it was Britain’s oldest purpose built book store, stretching back to 1912. Eat that Europe! I bought a book for Annie, her birthday is on the horizon. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said she’d like a pipe fixing on her patio that is kicking out steam and killing her plants. Some questions should never be asked.

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The Cavendish Book Shop

Another Google fail, and how sad that another book store bites the dust. Are you happy now Kindle readers? It’s getting late in the afternoon and I hadn’t had a single beer all day. We stop for a pit stop before making a half hour hike over to Hatchards in Piccadilly.

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Shreeji Newsagents 

A quick mention to the Shreeji Newsagents on Chiltern St. A great selection of publications ranging from photography to fashion with a dusting of pornography. I wanted to buy something, mainly Playboy, but a book was the order of the day. Was there still hope in finding a book in Piccadilly? Will I ever get to leave the circle of sadness? Did Murray win the tennis yesterday? Is it time to start talcing my balls? All pertinent questions.

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Hatchards

A beautiful expansive place, with many wings and levels. On the top floor was a book launch. I could hear a lady give a book reading to a large huddle of people, each clutching a glass of wine with a bowed listening face and poor posture. The written word had never looked so beautiful. There was a place after all for appreciating something as wonderfully antediluvian and deftly simplistic as a book reading. It was a pleasing a vision as you’d ever wish to see and I found myself uncharacteristically moved and perhaps condescendingly proud of our great society for…

Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number
So call me maybe
It’s hard to look right at you baby

But here’s my number
So call me maybe

The inevitable intrusion of some arseholes ring tone followed by the ‘Hello! Yes I’m in a Book shop‘.

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I was about to walk out. Even the well stocked sartorial section didn’t quite ignite my juices. The sales guy points to a book called Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.

“It’s about a day labourer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century, I found it incredibly profound, with the feel of a modern day fable. It asks the question, is the cost of human society and so-called civilisation too high?” Said the sales guy.

“Does it have any shagging in?” I ask. The sales guy, who was obviously well-read, but new to the job looked across at his supervisor for help. Which was not forthcoming. He turned back to me.

“It’s about a guy and his dog. They get on a train and …. “

“Does he shag the dog?” 

“No.”

Jesus Christ. I pay 8 sheets for a book about a man who gets on a train with his dog.

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