London’s most uplifting bookshops

in an age of sterile digital shopping, these palaces of
reading encourage the romance of browsing and getting lost among
the shelves.
 booksellers offer proper
old-school, thoughtful, human advice, comforting nooks – and, most
importantly, titles that you would never have thought of

lutyens & rubinstein

friends sarah lutyens and felicity rubinstein run a shop
that only sells the books that they rate, and it has proved to be a
winning idea. l&r offers a curated collection of new titles,
children’s books and illustrated books, with a permanent collection
of their all-time favourites downstairs that make a welcome
antedote to the cycle of hyped up new releases. it is stylish
all the way through – from the window with its flying paperback
birds and origami mobiles, to the striped tote bags, and artfully
positioned books. it’s richard curtis’ favourite bookshop, and if
anyone knows the highlights of notting hill, it’s him.

lutyens & rubinstein, 21 kensington park
rd, london w11 2eu    

heywood hill

this dainty georgian townhouse is home to a formidable selection
of books, with a serene atmosphere, and sweet-natured, enthusiastic
staff. nancy mitford worked here during the second world
war, establishing its reputation as a hub of london literary life.
thoughtfully, they offer plenty of literary services including
wedding lists, book subscriptions, and advice on building up your
home library. fans of heywood hill are extremely loyal and
tend to shop there decade after decade – make the pilgrimage to
curzon street to find out why.

heywood hill, 10 curzon street, london w1j

maison assouline

immerse yourself in the entirely stylish world of coffee table
book publisher assouline, whose luxurious flagship shop is part
parisian cafe, part library. the former bank building
designed by sir edwin lutyens in 1922 is a  beguiling
setting in which to browse their exhibition catalogues, books,
furniture, and prints. it’s also a handy place to know about for
cool presents.

maison assouline, 196a piccadilly, london,
w1j 9ey 


the most self-consiously modern and interior designed of these
bookshops, libreria is carefully curated newcomer. what it lacks in
heritage, it makes up with its soothing atmosphere, low lighting
and mobile phone ban. you might have to elbow past the other
shoppers who are browsing slowly as it’s a narrow but popular
space. it may be small, but packs in plenty of interesting stock.
their diary is full of in-depth seminars, workshops, and

libreria, 65
hanbury street, london e1

london review of books

an oasis off the thoroughfare off new oxford street, the lrb is
the kind of shop where you can go in for a paperback and come out
with bags full of stationary, presents, cards, food and art prints.
the staff are an important part of the shop’s appeal with their
intelligent but unpretentious advice. the icing on top of
the cake is the cafe, filled with light from big windows on
the street and courtyard. if you needed any more prompting, they
have an imaginative line-up of regular readings, events, and late
night shopping with cocktails.

lrb bookshop, 14 bury place, london, wc1a


not only is persephone books primly bijou and beautiful as a
shop, it reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by
mid-twentieth century (mostly female) writers in quaint grey
jackets with patterned endpapers. the shop is full of
overlooked books that you are unlikely to see anywhere else, and
they offer a book-a-month subscription service. if you live nearby
you may want to join the persephone book
group, on the first wednesday
of the month, where they will feed you madeira, and bread and

persephone books, 59 lamb’s conduit st, london,
wc1n 3nb

peter harrington

a well-loved little shop full of rare books, limited editions,
manuscripts and first editions, this is an easy place to
accidentally spend a lot of money – some of the most expensive
books sold in britain come through here. peter harrington began
selling rare editions from the chelsea antiques market on the
king’s road in the 1960s and the bookshop is now run by his son,
pom.  it has fostered much affection with west londoners
over the decades with its elegant displays, one-off rarities and
calming atmosphere.

peter harrington, 100 fulham road london sw3

john sandoe

at the marvellous john sandoe in chelsea it is possible to hide
out for hours in the stacks that somehow hold 30,000 titles within
three eighteenth century shop fronts joined together. the
narrow staircases and discreet doorways add to the aladdin’s cave
quality of the experience.  as john cleese recently said of
the shop, ‘you’ll find plentiful prize bats in this glorious
belfry’. the stock is mainly new, but staff will also seek out
of print books for you if you set them in pursuit of something
rare. since it opened in 1957, its shop fronts just off the king’s
road have been full of staff ‘s recent reading pleasures,
framed by well-tended window boxes. the windows are always worth a
browse if you’re in the area, although be prepared to lose a few

sandoe, 10 blacklands terrace, london, sw3 2sr

daunt books

this haven on marylebone high street is the original
daunt books, founded nearly thirty years ago by james
daunt.  the selection will keep you entertained for
hours, and there is plenty of variety to pique your
interest, especially among the secondhand and niche travel books.
the edwardian double-height room with its creaking wooden gallery
and stained glass window is an uplifting surprise at the back. they
get big name authors along to events and readings so look out on
for those.

daunt books, 83-84 marylebone high st. london,
w1u 4qw


a magical gem in bloomsbury, this is one for fans of all things
esoteric, and the occult in particular. unusually for a bookshop it
also sells rare herbs, ceremonial oils, and anything
else that magicians might need, and offers tarot readings. browsing
the curiosities is a memorable experience.  there are
plenty of obscure titles that you would be hard-pressed to find
anywhere else.

treadwell’s, 33 store street, london wc1e

word on the water

london’s only floating bookshop thankfully has been saved
from closure with a new permanent home on the canal just behind
king’s cross station. the clever owners of a 1920s dutch
barge have transformed it into a palace of reading, with the bonus
of a friendly dog, a wood-burning stove, and readings
and live acoustic music on the roof.

word on the water, york way, granary square,
london, n1

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