When I travel, I pick up unique postcards and local produce (and sometimes a bottle of alcohol or two). There’s also the occasional book, though I usually end up with more than one the moment I ‘lapse’ into my book-browsing mode.
Put me in a bookshop and I’ll soon lose track of time. Hunger, fatigue and/or the need to go to the loo would magically disappear. I might leave the shop with a lighter wallet, but I consider this a small price to pay for hours of pleasure and/or contemplation.
I go to London every other month for work. Being on a work trip means that there’s limited time to explore the city at my own pace.
When I’m in London, I usually stay at Le Méridien Piccadilly . Which works out well as the hotel is across the road from Waterstones’ flagship store, which closes at 10pm on most days and happens to be the largest bookshop in Europe.
Waterstones is a good all-rounder bookstore chain, just like Japan’s Kinokuniya, Barnes & Noble from the US and Eslite in Taiwan. I like that the one at Piccadilly offers a good selection from independent publishers such as Persephone Books, Pushkin Press and Twisted Spoon Press.
However, it lacks personality and I find the ambiance rather insipid. Waterstones is like a pleasant and reliable man who is just a tad dull. Nothing wrong with being so. It’s just not my cup of tea.
I prefer Daunt Books @ 83-84 Marylebone High Street. It’s nowhere as big as Waterstones Piccadilly, but who cares, size isn’t everything.
Daunt Books is a beautiful place to while away the hours. Especially on sunny days with the light streaming through the lofty glass ceiling and bathing the shop in a diffused glow.
Offering an extensive selection of travel literature, Daunt Books is like a seasoned globetrotter who is always elegantly groomed and ready to indulge you with one of his adventures in a faraway land.
Then there is John Sandoe @ 10 Blacklands Terrace in Chelsea. Not quite as gorgeous as Daunt Books, but endearing in its own way. Much smaller in scale, John Sandoe is almost packed to the brim with interesting literature (fiction, non-fiction) yet so incredibly neat.
Modest yet generous with much to offer, it’s like another well-travelled explorer. John Sandoe reminds me of someone who is a willing companion for a long journey, quietly listening and always ready with practical advice or inspiring anecdotes.
During my recent trip to London, I also visited Skoob Books @ Brunswick Shopping Centre, 66 Marchmont Street and was swept off my feet.
Hidden away in the basement of the shopping centre, Skoob Books is a treasure trove of secondhand books. Only one copy of each book is displayed on the shelves as there isn’t enough space.
One of the highlights of visiting Skoob Books was finding Miss Pettigrew, an Englishman William and an Expendable Man waiting for me in their smart grey jackets in the ‘new arrivals’ section! Dare I ask for more?
Skoob Books is like the one who has been around and (almost) seen it all. Press him for world history, classic literature, psychobabble, or even music, and he’ll have an answer for everything. But remember to take your time or you’ll be overwhelmed by all that wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
Places like Skoob Books are meant to be enjoyed a little at a time. Be patient and you can be sure to discover bits of paradise in between worn, tattered covers or lightly worn jackets.
All photographs were taken with my phone and processed using VSCO Cam.