It’s scary to think that lockdown has made that magical feeling of turning a corner and spotting a bookish treasure trove a thing of the past. Wandering through the rows and rows of those undiscovered stories calling your name seems like a dream away.
What’s even scarier is the fact that this feeling may never return with independent companies having been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic, meaning that some may never be able to reopen. Which is exactly why we’ve rounded up 8 of our favourite independent bookstores to help you help them, and you can even browse and buy without leaving the house.
DRAKE the Bookshop
Regional winner of The Independent Bookshop of the Year Award in the 2018 and 2019 British Book Awards, Drake the Bookshops hosts a vast curation of new discoveries as well as classic reads. The shelves are lined with beautiful covers, allowing guests to admire the galleries of novels and stories. At the moment, local delivery fees are free, and if you prefer a surprise or simply can’t choose, they’re offering to pick and send you a few books to let you discover a new author in your genre of choice.
2. Persephone Books
Perhaps our favourite pick, Persephone Books cherishes the hidden stories of (mainly) women writers of the twentieth century. Their delicate selection of books are covered in a grey jacket to forbid you from the age old tale of judging a book by its cover. Their mission to publish unheard, unrepresented or lost women’s writing is definitely one we stand by, and you can browse their selection ranging from cookbooks to feminist historical memoirs online.
3. Round Table Books
Nestled in Brixton, this bookshop originated as pop-up store aiming to diversify children’s book collections, following a study that showed only 1% of UK children’s books feature a BAME character. Round Table Books celebrates diversity and inclusivity in children’s storytelling, collecting books from UK publishers with BAME characters, some for adults too! With a book favourite per month, their website is as vibrant as the stories inside, easy to navigate and refine for different age ranges.
4. The Gutter Bookshop
Rated Independent Bookshop of the Year at the 2017 British Books Awards, this store is definitely one of the highlights of a trip to Dublin. With the original store and a second seaside shop, the team are constantly working to track down new or old editions of printed books, and are even posting worldwide, including signed first editions, and their famous book clubs (post-lockdown) are definitely worth a save in your calendar.
5. Category is Books
This LGBTQIA+ independent bookstore is a safe space that celebrates queer storytelling through novels, magazines, second-hand and new books, and so much more. If they don’t stock something you’re on the search for, you can always email or call them with a list of what you’d like, and even take a browse through their pay-it-forward shelf for guests with a lower budget. Their Insta page (@categoryisbooks) is definitely one to watch out for, with recommendations and hidden gems to fill up your feed.
6. London Review Bookshop
Another London favourite is London Review Bookshop, which was opened by the prestigious London Review of Books magazine. With their daily newsletter, and even a monthly book box if the Books That Matter subscription isn’t enough, London Review Bookshop has the won hearts of readers all around the country and their archives are full of all genres imaginable, from poetry to essays, classics to cookbooks.
Although we might be cheating a little by including this online bookshop, Hive isn’t an independent store, but rather a website that prides itself on supporting local bookstores. Connected to independent bookshops all across the UK, Hive allows you to browse fiction, nonfiction, and more with a percentage of the money going towards independent bookstores (of your choosing!). For those avid readers who want to mix this online ordering experience with an actual visit to a bookstore, you can collect your order from your local shop, which may even mean you discover a new spot right around the corner!
6. Gosh! Comics
This may not exactly fit the independent bookstore list, but this independent comic store is a must-visit, unique spot in London with one of the widest ranges of graphic novels out there. From children’s superheroes to contemporary European translations, Gosh! Comics has something for everyone.
If your book shelves are already brimming, or the Books That Matter monthly treat is simply enough to quench your bookish thirst, there are so many other ways to support independent bookshops, starting with a share on social media or a recommendation to a friend.
Written by Meghna Amin