Part two: in which we briefly forget how to use the tube
After our long wander through Notting Hill, we hopped on the circle line to Gloucester road to reach Book Shop 3.
Book Shop 3: Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road
Now I’m going to be honest with you all and say that the reason why this one made the final cut was partly to do with the fact that foxes are my favourite animals, but also due to their own printing press.
Slightly Foxed sell second hand and new books, which include those printed by themselves in a number of hardback and paperback collections. I was very tempted by Elspeth Huxley’s memoir on growing up in Africa, one of the hardback Slightly Foxed Editions, but couldn’t decide whether I should instead pick Dodie Smith or experience another author I hadn’t heard of or shared most of a name with. I feel like any of their own printed books would make excellent presents for bookworms looking for something new. Seeing them all lined up on the shelf is a thing of beauty.
All the new books are upstairs in a clean, cute book store decorated with fox drawings. On the day we went, there was a stack of shelves outside with very good relatively new fiction piled up for cheap (sadly I had all the ones I’d have wanted on there). Down the stairs is an immense grotto of second hand books – biographies, history, old penguin paperbacks galore. You are hit with a smell that is intensely “old words” and reminds me of adventures in the lesser visited sections of libraries. There is a couch that I was very tempted to curl up on, but I plan to leave that for another day. Down here, I found an almost new copy of the Accidental by Ali Smith which I decided to take with me and leave browsing every single book for another day.
We were helpfully assisted by co-manager Ben Scott who told me all about their book clubs and explained the Slightly Foxed Quarterly magazine to me, which is what I eventually purchased. He described it as “accessible literature critique, featuring essays on lesser known authors for you to discover”. That seemed to be what I was looking for, some guidance and direction through to a new world of books. I really enjoyed visiting this shop and I most definitely will be back there, hopefully for a book club.
Honourable Mention #1 – South Kensington Books
It was around this point, I realised I really wanted to get to John Sandoe books and get into town, so sadly South Kensington Books was missed off our itinerary this time around. I have definitely perused the shelves here previously, being drawn away on a walk to the museums by the cheap prices. It’s worth popping into if you are by the museums.
However my excitement to get to John Sandoe did mean that we got the tube the wrong way and ended back up in Notting Hill Gate where trains were running sporadically. However, we got there eventually!
Book Shop 4: John Sandoe Books
John Sandoe Books is just a few minutes walk away from Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery. The bookshop is on a small side street, somehow protecting you from the hectic hurriedness of the main street. It’s amazing how the character of individual streets in London is so often like that; you turn a corner and its a completely new atmosphere.
Tim was especially happy to be here as there is a good section on architecture. I plonked him in that corner and went exploring through the dark wood shelves. Downstairs I found a few graphic novels and poetry but most importantly a children’s section where I found The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar which seemed like the perfect present for my 12 week old nephew. Being a child of a philosophising paleontology lover and the nephew of someone who spent their childhood parading herds of dinosaurs along the lounge carpets (which at one time were the perfect colour for sand blasted desert lands), little Dyl doesn’t really have a choice about loving dinosaurs I fear. He already has a number of dino onesies and this book explicitly gives you the full name of each dinosaur meaning its a good revision session for us. The art is so desperately beautiful in it that it makes me wish I bought a copy for myself!
Upstairs (yes Tim was still in architecture) are amazing sliding shelves that host the fiction. I tried to keep clear of these as I was determined to keep this my first #giveabook bookshop, and so apart from whizzing the shelves around a bit, I didn’t get to explore this as much as I wanted. However, I did sit on the window seat (pictured beneath the excellent dinosaur book) for a few moments of repose. I am a big fan of bookshops with cosy sitting areas. Another one to return to in the near future I feel. Tim joined me eventually clutching a copy of Why Cities Are Good For You which he had been pouring over, and we celebrated our purchases by heading out for a bus to Soho.
This, my lovely readers, is when it dawned on me that getting to bookshops 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 would take a relatively long time due to the Pride parade, but I cast off these concerns and decided to go for a long walk through central London to soak up the atmosphere.
Stay tuned for part 3 in which we wander through the Pride parade and celebrate and carry on our tour.