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There's a lot of pleasure to be had in shopping, but most of it gets caught up in the immediate and superficial associations of clothes shopping for the shiny and new. However, there's a lot to be said for bookshops. The easy pleasure of flicking through pages of beautiful photographs or being absorbed in a story is a beautiful one, and the relative calm of a good bookshop is one of shopping's great experiences.
In London, if you're looking for a bookshop, your first port of call will most likely be Charing Cross Road. It is a long road and in the chaos of navigating the West End, most people don't look away from the street to see the rows and rows of books stacked in the shelves in the bookshops packed cheek-by-jowl on the street. The street's bookstores really are one of London's great treasures and its accessible location makes it all the more egalitarian.
The selections are diverse. There are numerous antique bookshops, selling rare and hard-to-find copies that have gone out of print, or ones that are unpopular with the mainstream but are gems for the serious collector or reader. These can be find on the east side of Charing Cross road, on the Covent Garden side. There are excellent commercial bookstores as well, the best of them being Blackwells and Foyles. The latter is beloved by Londoners, and stocks a massive and well-organised selection of books in its multi-level store. It also has an adjacent café that, unlike the Starbucks in your local Borders, actually feels literary and stages readings and performances. It also sells jazz records. How great is that? The graphics and photography selection at Koenig books rounds out the best of the street, and for more in the same vein, the on-the-pulse publishing company Taschen has a store in Chelsea.
Nearest Tube - Tottenham Court Road will take you to the top of the street, Leicester Square will drop you off in the middle and Charing Cross is at the bottom of the street.
Charing Cross Road, London, Charing-CrossView Larger Map
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