A bookish interlude

I thought you might want a bookish change of pace in the midst of all the Sissinghurst photos. So what better than a run down of book purchases from our trip. The majority of them were purchased on our one day in London. I had sent out an SOS on Twitter hoping for recommendations for used bookstores in London. I know where pretty much all the new bookstores are, and I knew there are used stores along and near Charing Cross Road, but for all the times I have been to London, I have never really explored the second shops there and realized that I didn’t know where to start. Happily the Twitterverse crowdsourcing paid off and I had a great day running around London with John popping into many stores.

I should mention that near the car park at Sissinghurst there is a little cafe/plant shop that also had a charity secondhand book stall inside. It would have been perfect if I had run out of reading material (I didn’t) as the books in the snug in our cottage didn’t really excite me too much. But more on that in a future post.

Good thing we had plenty of extra room in the luggage.
Here is my mini-haul from the charity book stall at the cafe at Sissinghurst. Not bad for about a total of two pounds fifty. Turns out I already own a hardcover of The Signpost, but not this edition.
I hadn’t been here since I lived in London in 1992 (and was too poor to buy books), but I hadn’t really planned on stopping in, but one of the secondhand shops someone told me about was nearby so it was silly not to check it out.
My haul from Gay’s the Word. I realized once I got inside that since the demise of Lambda Rising in DC, I haven’t been in a Gay bookshop in a long time and saw so many things that looked interesting. I had to stop myself at three.
I knew nothing about this shop, and it wasn’t on my list to visit, but John sat at a nearby cafe for some morning coffee and I missed a turn and assumed from the word “books” on the awning that this was Skoob Books. Naturally I had to go in despite my mistake.
And naturally I had to buy something. I love these little Oxford University Press pocket editions of Trollope. They had a bunch of others in nice dust jackets, but they were more expensive and I couldn’t remember which ones I owned.
This is the kind of place I would go to if I wanted to find something to read. But, since I didn’t need anything to read, I wasn’t quite sure what to look for.
Skoob had lots of great stock but not much in the way of the kind of thing that I like to hunt for. Until I saw the section of old Penguin paperbacks. That made me think I might find some UK titles that would be hard to find in the US. At first nothing was too out of the ordinary, then I got to the Ws and realized how hard it is to find John Wyndham in the US. These were a huge score for me.
I couldn’t be in the neighborhood and not stop into Persephone. There was a man browsing with the catalog trying to figure out what to buy. I really, really wanted to walk him through the 30 or so that I have read, but I refrained from being so pushy.
I had no intention of buying anything given that I find it pretty easy to order online and I needed time to do some research (like the guy walking around with the catalog). As I glanced through some of the newer editions I realized I haven’t kept up with Persephone’s offerings in the past couple of years. I’ve been missing out. Since I had already set a precedent for buying something in every store I couldn’t break tradition here. This gardening related title seemed totally appropriate for this trip.
My first thought is that this would be more of a John book, but as I page through it, I think it will be right up my street.
As we were looking for a lunch spot, I decided to take John down Store Street where I lived in the BUNAC Hostel for six months in 1992. Well, Store Street has gentrified and looks quite a bit different than it did 27 years ago. And another bookstore I hadn’t expected.
With a focus on hocus pocus–sorry I couldn’t resist–on magic and similar, I wasn’t sure I was going to find anything at Treadwell’s that I wanted to buy, but then this book saved the day.
And on to Charing Cross Road. I was a bit surprised that so many bookshops have survived here. Although I have been to London many times since I lived in this neighborhood in the 1990s, I can’t remember the last time I walked down CCR.
It is possible that I bought this at Any Amount of Books rather than Pordes, but I don’t remember. And I don’t have a picture of AAB. After a week at Sissinghurst I felt I needed to buy something by Vita. This one is dedicated to her sister-in-law (and sister-in-love) Gwen St. Aubyn.
Just off Charing Cross Road is Cecil Court which is happily still chock-a-block with second had shops, print shops, coins, galleries, etc. I could spend a month of Saturdays here. But I whizzed in and out pretty quickly. I only had one day after all.
One of the more affordable offerings at Peter Ellis.
This place was packed and only a few minutes walk from our hotel on Dorset Square. It is just the kind of crazy jumble I was hoping to find.
Archive Books had lots of music books and sheet music. They also had full orchestral pocket scores which I don’t run into much anymore. I’m kicking myself for not also getting the Mahler 1. The novel on the bottom is something that seemed like it might be a fun read and worth taking a chance on.
The original Daunt Books has been a favorite of mine since my best friend Ron lived right around the corner from it about 20 years ago. I hadn’t planned to stop in on this trip, but we had some time between the Wallace Collection and our flight home, so it seemed silly not to stop.
Not having thought about what I might want ahead of time, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself in a new bookstore. But I love Melissa Harrison and I liked Gale’s A Place Called Winter. After seeing the amazing drama about Chernobyl on HBO, I couldn’t pass up the top volume. I have so many questions I hope it will answer.

13 thoughts on “A bookish interlude

  1. winstonsdad June 30, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    Great tour of some nice shops and some great finds


  2. BookerTalk July 1, 2019 / 12:39 am

    What a wonderful way to spend a day in London. Good to know that the second hand options are still so plentiful.


  3. Elle July 1, 2019 / 5:04 am

    Obviously a huge fan of London bookshop tours (Judd and Skoob are SUPERB, I spent a delightful hour in Skoob once with a man that I was nominally on a date with). I don’t think I know Archive Books, though, and your mention of pocket scores has fired my curiosity. You don’t remember what else they had in the way of that, do you…?


    • Thomas July 1, 2019 / 8:18 am

      They have tons of sheet music and maybe two shelves of pocket scores. It looked like they had other music books as well, but I didn’t look too closely. The shop is a crazy jumble overall but the scores/sheet music did seem to be organized by type (piano, flute, etc.).


      • Elle July 1, 2019 / 12:20 pm

        Fanfuckingtastic. I must pay them a visit.


  4. Grier July 1, 2019 / 11:28 am

    How I love a secondhand bookshop as one never know what one will find. Thank you for this post as it will be helpful for my September trip to London. Great choices!


  5. Ruthiella July 2, 2019 / 7:11 pm

    Great tour of London bookshops. And as usual, you got a nice mix of newer and older titles. I totally would have loved to hear your lecture on what to buy at Persephone! But I understand your restraint. I have hand-sold books in bookstores before too…even though I don’t work in a book store.


  6. Susan in TX July 3, 2019 / 12:53 pm

    How well I know the urge to hand sell books to strangers. I’m normally a very shy person in real life, but I seem to find my voice in book stores. Love this tour of the second hand shops. Do you happen to know what resides at 84 Charing Cross? I know the old bookstore didn’t last, but I’ve always been curious as to what is there now.


  7. Liz Dexter July 4, 2019 / 7:06 am

    Lovely! I’d have been at that man in Persephone like a terrier after a rat and shaken some hand-sales out of him! I love AAB and always find stuff in their outside bins. I used to live in Covent Garden and it was quite hard being so near CCR!


  8. Geoff W July 8, 2019 / 4:18 pm

    I can’t believe I missed the call for recommendations: there’s a used bookstore that’s on a canal boat in London! They don’t have a huge stock, but it’s such a unique experience. We stumbled across it last summer visiting friends.


  9. John Wood January 4, 2020 / 3:50 am

    I stayed at bunac in late 1992 and early 1993. Wonder if we passed by one another Thomas.
    John Wood, best wishes to you. J.w.


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