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The Book Shops of Charing Cross Road

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I know, Soho is better known for its theatres, throngs of tourists and its seediness. But Charing Cross Road is best known for its bookshops and I've noticed the sheer number of them too, while trying to wind my way through the crowds, trying not get run over by people or traffic.

Last week I had the unintentional pleasure of being in Soho early in the morning, when the workday was only just beginning, most of the shops and cafes were closed and the tourists were presumably still in bed. It was lovely. And because I had my camera on me, I decided it was the perfect time to document these bookshops.


(click on pictures to enlarge)


The Book Shops of Charing Cross
Any Amount of Books - a treasure trove of secondhand books.


The Book Shops of Charing Cross
Henry Pordes - yet another antiquarian heaven, and an old and renowned name themselves



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross
Koenig Books - one of the last few remaining design-specialist bookshops on the road


Starting from Leicester Square tube station, these book shops seem to progress towards Tottenham Court Road in a roughly decreasing order of specialism. Most of these bookshops on the east side of the road reside on the ground floor of an old housing estate - and thanks to the landlord revising the rents sharply upwards, a number of these bookshops have had to close shutters recently. One of the latest casualties is Shipley Books:



The Book Shops of Charing Cross
R.I.P


Then there are the larger generalist stores towards the Tottenham Court Road side.

The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



But the largest of all these is Foyles. This particular branch of Foyles is supposed to be the largest in the UK - and I can personally vouch for their great collection spread over five floors.


The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross



Foyles, in fact, was the reason I was at Charing Cross Road in the first place - I was here to drop off my prints for the month-long Slow Exposure Exhibition at the Ray's Jazz Cafe within Foyles. The exhibition went up on Friday, 24th April and will go on until 24th May. Two of my pictures are part of the 28 exhibits but I honestly think some of the other photographers' work is much more worthy and truly commendable! Do go have a look.


The Book Shops of Charing Cross



The Book Shops of Charing Cross


As I've written previously, the Slow Exposure exhibition is part of the Slow Down London Festival and Foyles is running several events as part of the festival. I think it's a great concept - something each of one us needs to...well, slow down and give a thought to.


The Book Shops of Charing Cross


And if you agree with the thought, take the time out - saunter into one of these bookshops and lose yourself in the books. Browse for hours. Do it slowly. :)


9 comments so far:

SloganMurugan said...

Ma Kasam. So many book stores.

jonathanwthomas said...

Great post! Thanks for this.

Shipra Chauhan said...

Mmm...love bookstores. Thanks for the book tour!

Anonymous said...

great collection ... happy to see the place thrive despite the the infiltration by Borders inc.

-s

Chailey said...

Ah yes, the bookshops of Charing Cross Road. My first ever job was working in Foyles and that was back in 1986. I know the area very well and there used to be many more shops than the ones you've documented so well. On my rare trips back to the UK I generally visit most of these - Henry Pordes is particularly good and there's also a small shop called Frances Edwards (I think) next to the first shop you've photographed here. The Dillons bookshop on Gower Street also has a good selection of second-hand books. I have to say that I do miss that browsing in Bangalore.

Thanks for following my blog.

Paul

Flaneurbanite said...

SloMo: Ma Kasam indeed. And I haven't even documented all of them!

jonathanwthomas: Thank you :) Do keep dropping by.

Shipra: You're most welcome:)

Anon: Thank you. It's not exactly 'thriving', though - the recession coupled with an increase in rents a few years back has spelt the dealth knell for a bunch of the smaller, specialist ones. It's still 'surviving' though,in these hard times, and that's a good thing:)


Chailey: Thanks for dropping by! Glad to have refreshed happy-browsing memories for you:) Indian cities, in general, certainly do not have as many good bookshops around. Definitely not the number of bookshops London can boast of!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! Will be visiting London in August and wanted to visit Charing Crossing for the books but didnt know where to begin.

Thank you from a confessed bibliophile

Flaneurbanite said...

Anon: Thank you! Glad to be of help :)

Anonymous said...

Love all these photos! I am an inveterate bibliophile, and my visit to Charing Cross Road was the equivalent of being in heaven. One correction, however: your first photo is not of Any Amount of Books. It is of Quinto Bookshop, which, in March 2010, moved premises from 48a to 72 Charing Cross Road.

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