I made a few New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 and one of them was to ‘visit more London bookshops (and blog about them)’ – so here we are. Hopefully ‘A Tour of London Bookshops’ will be a frequent feature on Pretty Books, although I haven’t quite worked out how often I’ll visit, whether I’ll be buying something in every shop, or what on Earth these posts should look like!
Skoob Books was the first bookshop I visited this year and I was quite excited since I had never been before, although it had been suggested to me a few times. According to the website, Skoob Books has ‘London’s broadest selection of second-hand academic books’, although I thought that it had an excellent collection of classics and modern fiction too. Skoob is situated just off of the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury, which is a rather lovely part of London that never seems to be packed with tourists even though it’s only a few minutes walk from Holborn. I visited an exhibition on death at the Wellcome Collection before visiting Skoob and then took a short walk to the British Library afterwards, so it makes for a fun day out. It’s also within walking distance of Russell Square, the British Museum, and another one of my favourite bookshops, London Review Bookshop. It’s a part of London that’s just so enjoyable to walk around, even if you’re not going anywhere. Make sure you look up at the beautiful buildings!
When I reached the Brunswick, I ended up staring at a ‘Skoob Books’ sign for a few minutes, which was pointing directly at Waitrose, wondering if I was meant to go through the supermarket… But to avoid humility, I walked around it. And there I finally found Skoob! It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside (which turns out to be deceiving!) but when I walked downstairs and into the underground bookshop, I could see why it was named one of London’s best shops by Time Out.
As soon as you walk in, you’re faced with piles and piles of different types of used books, from recent releases (such as Gone Girl and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for £4 each) to old classics (such as a bunch of Agatha Christie novels for £5 each). One of the reasons I wanted to visit Skoob was that I’d heard it was famous for its Penguin Classics, particularly the coveted orange classics – and I wasn’t disappointed. There are bookcases dedicated just to Penguin titles, but they can also be found among the regular bookshelves.
Can bookshops have personalities? If so, Skoob definitely does. I loved the little touches that made me feel like the people who run it really do care about it. I loved the piano sitting among piles of books (in the music section, of course), the little quotes pinned to the bookshelves (‘Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’ – Jane Austen), the postcards scattered around, and the wall that had what looked like old music sheets stuck to it. And yes, it did have that lovely old books smell. It felt like our version of Shakespeare & Company in Paris.
And look, they even have a children’s and young adult fiction section! I didn’t have a proper look as there were two children trying to browse the bookshelves, but it looks like quite a large selection for a used bookshop. I usually see children’s books shoved somewhere in a corner and nothing particularly worth purchasing, so I was impressed.
I must’ve been in Skoob for over an hour (and it’s not that large, although there’s plenty of bookshelves to browse) taking photographs like a hipster with my iPhone. Skoob Books reminded me why I wanted to make the New Year’s Resolution in the first place. As a booklover, I should have been visiting bookshops all the time, but I rarely did, instead opting to order books online. I can completely understand why people do use online bookshops – and I no doubt still will – but I’m lucky to live in a city that certainly does not have a shortage of fantastic independent bookshops – so why don’t I utilise that? I won’t kid myself and think that buying one book occasionally will save bookshop from closures, but it’s better than not visiting them at all. That’s what I want to achieve with this feature, so if you’re a fellow Londoner like myself, or just planning a trip here, hopefully you’ll have some fantastic bookshops on your list to visit.
If there’s a bookshop you think I must visit or if there’s something in particular you’d like me to talk about in these posts, feel free to let me know!
Purchased: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Russell Square | 66 Brunswick Square, WC1N 1AE | skoob.com