Best for…a hand-picked selection
Herne Hill Books
Where: Herne Hill
The little sister of Clapham Books (see below), this petite SE24 outlet has a similarly potent collection of unusual reads, each carefully selected by passionate staff. Though you’ll find mainly fiction on its shelves, the shop also stocks a bit of everything else, from pop culture and poetry to food, drink and travel. Since the shop is too small to host its own events, occasional readings from local authors are held in the Clapham store. A venue closer to Herne Hill HQ is currently being sought for such affairs.
289 Railton Road SE24 0LY
020 7998 1673
Best for…little readers
Under The Greenwood Tree
Where: Clapham Common
Adorable (and yet very well-stocked) children’s wonderland, right in the heart of Clapham Old Town, selling colourful books and old-fashioned toys for small people aged up to eleven. There’s also an on-site café selling scrumptious cakes and coffee to tired mums and dads. With story-telling sessions, drama workshops and communal toys to play with, this is just the sort of bookshop that will get kids interested in reading.
11 The Polygon SW4 0JG
020 7627 4557
Best for…next day delivery
The Kennington Bookshop
If you browse round this peaceful bookshop’s carefully chosen titles and don’t find what you’re looking for, helpful staff will order it in at no extra charge and it will be ready for collection the very next day. The knowledgeable team will also recommend something else you might like while you wait. There’s also a very good second-hand section and regular events throughout the year, from readings and launches to wordy supper clubs.
306-308 Kennington Road SE11 4LD
020 7735 5505
Best for…literary events
Opened by publishing great John Calder in 2000, this multi-tasking venue is part bookshop, part theatre, boasting a calendar of literary events that ought to keep you off the streets in between productions in the nearby Vics (both Young and Old). This month, Michael Wayne will be discussing his new book, Marx’s Das Kapital For Beginners, on June 18. You’ll also find literary workshops here, and a cinema club playing independent films every Tuesday night, from 7.30pm. Entry is free but donations are welcome.
51 The Cut SE1 8LF
020 7620 2900
Best for…book exchangesBookmongers
Bring in old books and exchange them for brand new reads at Brixton’s best-loved literary swap shop. With double-stacked shelves, boxes full of paperbacks and queer ways of arranging books, the chaotic nature of this twenty-year-old emporium is all part of its unique charm. Don’t come in with a definite idea of what it is you’re looking for: you won’t find it, and in your frustration you might end up missing something really special.
439 Coldharbour Lane SW9 8LN
020 7738 4225
Best for…charitable page-turnersBritish Heart Foundation
This ‘books and music’ branch of the charity shop is an absolute goldmine when it comes to bargain pre-loved reads. Walk in with a fiver and you could easily come away with a Penguin Classic, an Alan Partridge autobiography, a Rough Guide to Kuala Lumpur and a Pingu picturebook for the nippers. And every time you turn the page your heart will swell just thinking about how you’ve helped someone else’s stay healthy. Bravo.
94 Streatham High Road
London, Greater London SW16 1BS
020 8664 7490
Don’t forget….book-signings and story-tellings in Clapham Books (120 Clapham High Street SW4; http://www.claphambooks.com)….bargains and kooky cookbooks in the Book Warehouse (158 Waterloo Road SE1)….art and kids’ reads at the Bolingbroke Bookshop (147 Northcote Road SW11)…the personal touch in Village Books (1D Calton Avenue SE21).