London Book Shop Crawl 2015: Part 1 – Kensington & Notting Hill

This year, I decided to take part in an independent book shop crawl in honour of Indie Book Shop Week 2015. My lovely, patient partner Tim even agreed to come with me and indulge my ridiculous attempt to visit approximately 15 book shops (we managed 6 ha!). The upside of my overly-excited plans, my readers, is that I’ve compiled a nice little dossier for you all on all the book shops SO HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS GUYS WE’RE GETTING WILD OVER HERE

Also I’m splitting this up into multiple blogs because otherwise this is HUGE.

IMG_20150627_110130In order to placate lovely Tim, I took him out for a substantial Bill’s brunch while I wittered with glee about which shops we were going to visit in order and why, with detailed Citymapper plans waved in his face – yes I had pre-added every single bookshop into my Citymapper before hand WHAT OF IT. Once caffeine-d (me) and lemonade-d (Tim) up, we hopped onto the Circle Line from Hammersmith and headed to Notting Hill for our first book shops.

Just as a note, the route we took also is a nice way to walk through bits of London, so if you have a bookish pal who also wants to see London, the three routes we managed were great.

IMG_20150627_114555Book Shop 1: Lutyers & Rubinstein

This was a previously known bookshop, but I wanted to visit it again because it’s such a lovely bit-of-everything shop, nestled off Portobello Road, with lovely staff (one of whom likes Sleater Kinney and had a spare ticket that helped me go to Sleater Kinney). That first time I visited, I picked up a copy of Walden in the MOST beautiful simple cover that has been waiting for summer to come around for me to read it. I’ve been reading a lot of non fiction about Britain’s wildlife and outdoor living, that coincided with returning to my homeland of North Wales and rediscovering some green places.

IMG_20150627_163952With all these feelings in mind, a single white book on the corner of the display table named “The Homing Instinct” basically leapt out at me. The book has the subtitle “Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration”; it combines all the feelings I’ve had about nature being inextricably tied to a concept of home for me, and thus it became book purchase 1. Leviathan by Philip Hoare got a look in, as its a book I’ve been meaning to buy for years, but as this was the first time I’d ever seen this book and for it to appear RIGHT NOW felt really kind of right.

Tim poured over a few copies of books and the cute art on the walls. He somehow did not bash his head walking down the little staircase to the fiction basement, which feels like a cosy hideaway from Portobello, only one street away.

I love L&R bookshop and was really pleased to have made a 2nd trip there.

IMG_20150627_121010Book Shop 2: Books for Cooks

Round the corner from L&R is Books for Cooks. I wanted to try and include some explicitly themed bookshops in my crawl, as I was mildly concerned I’d come home with an armful of fiction to add to the rest of my house. I found Books is for Cooks on a few good independent bookshop lists and decided to give it a whirl. My friend Ella, of essential blog Eating With My Fingers, supported both my choices for 1&2 and as I trust her on all thinks cooking, I decided that I’d made a good choice. And boy had I!

The shop itself is wonderfully organised into cuisines or styles, with a cafe in the back where they use recipes from their cookbooks, with helpful staff wandering the shelves. I was welcomed and offered help by a member of staff once I arrived, and I said no to start with, not sure what I wanted.

For those who don’t know me personally, I’m a human who collects medical maladies with almost as much perseverance as books – that’s not to say I’m a hypochondriac, I’m just not blessed with good genes. After finally sorting out what was going on with my brain, I considered investigating my chronic issues with food that have plagued me since childhood. Nice GP suggested I had IBS and that I should investigate FODMAPs as a treatment choice. I’ve found so far that cutting out gluten and most dairy has helped a lot (though hardly a surprise as they were always top of my list of “things I feel sick after eating”). I leafed through a FODMAP cookbook and felt sad; everything was just so bland and rudimentary. Garlic and onions, a reliable duo in the kitchen, have remarkably unkind effects on me it turns out, but that doesn’t mean I have to throw the love of cooking out with the delicious garlic sent does it.Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 21.45.51

I scuttled up to the sales assistant and said “give me gluten free baking but gluttonous”. I’m not really one for moralising types of food and the words “detox” and “clean” in reference to food fill me with dread and boredom. So our sales assistant picked up the most ooey gooey cakey cookbook that contains gluten free recipes – Sweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich. Turns out Kyra owns her own gluten free cupcakery as well which I’ve just been sitting staring at for the last five minutes. While yes this is yet another book for me and not really a give a book as the book shop crawl was intended to be, I feel that this book will yield the gift of cake to my gf pals, and really thats the best gift isn’t it. Give a man a fish and all that.

Speaking of fish, I then poked around in the fish cookbook section and found a book written by the owner of a really great sustainable canned fish brand called Fish Tales. I Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 21.45.58love eating responsibly caught fish, and what easier way than a reliable can of pole-and-line tuna for days when things are too tiring. However, awkward as it may be, I don’t know any reliable recipes beyond a stonkingly good spaghetti puttanesca recipe that I overuse salty anchovies in. Tim and are going to be engaging in some thrifty living and lunch box life over the next few years, so I thought this will come in handy. The recipes have a good variety and are split up by types of canned fish you commonly find on shelves, and have some stories about the fishermen themselves in it. I recommend you checking out the book and Fish Tales themselves.

So all in all, a good haul from this shop too. Other books that caught my eye were Oranges by Clarissa Hyman, and some books on Jewish cooking that have resided in shared houses with me in the past. But these were the two that won out – so here’s to sustainable tuna and glutenless cakes!

After we left the book shops, we turned onto Portobello Road and walked up through the market (if you ever wanted to buy a fur coat, this seems to be the place!) and onto Notting Hill Gate area. The buildings here are that beautiful tall white cleanness that small-child-me thought was what all of London looked like. We even came across one quaint little garden that boasted home made jams for sale, atop a black framed chair.

Stay tuned for part 2, in which we get the train the wrong way and enjoy the Pride parade!

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