To parallel the list of New York bookstores I discovered yesterday, I’ve been thinking about my top ten London ones which specialise in architectural books. It’s a vicarious substitute for being able to visit them, part of life which is now missing.
1. The AA Bookshop
The best by quite a long way is what I still think of as the Triangle Bookshop on the ground floor of the Architectural Association, named after a bookshop in the Triangle in Kennington, invariably well stocked, good on architectural theory, good on city guides, perfect for browsing, with very helpful staff. A great bookshop.
2. The RIBA Bookshop
I used to find the RIBA bookshop a bit too technical for my taste, a few too many engineering manuals, but it’s got much better with a good general stock, including, which I like, a whole section of architectural guides.
3. John Sandoe
I seldom make it to the King’s Road, but when I do am impressed by the way such a small shop manages to be so packed with books I want and it’s very knowledgeable and helpful staff. They were the only shop allowed to sell the special edition of my book on East London and will now take advance postal orders for my book on museums.
I always use the branch at the top of Marylebone High Street, really a travel bookstore, but such a wonderful one, with its Edwardian glass-roofed area at the back, first opened in 1912, where the world is laid out systematically and topographically, so that one can explore the globe.
5. Heywood Hill
I have to include Heywood Hill for my older brother’s sake who gave me my book addiction and sold me the entire reading list for my Cambridge course in architectural history. I used to be an account customer which meant that one never knew how much a book cost until the hand-written bill arrived at a later date. It’s always been strong on architecture and probably still is.
I have never enjoyed Hatchard’s quite as much as when its art department up on its second floor was run, rather fiercely, by Maureen Boland and Baron Nicolas van den Branden de Reeth, but it still has a very good stock of current architectural books, erring towards the luxurious end of the market and away from the scholarly.
Foyles has been expensively and successfully revamped with its architecture section near the entrance on the ground floor, good just because it is still on such a big scale, so able to stock in depth.
8. Artwords Bookstore
It’s always a pleasure to come across Artwords on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, good on art, but good on architecture too.
9. Broadway Books
I think of it as my local bookstore at the bottom end of Broadway Market, always well and thoughtfully stocked and good for Christmas shopping, but not this year.
10. Page’s of Hackney
Last, a plug for Page’s of Hackney because I admire the fact that there is a proper, well-stocked, local bookshop on the Lower Clapton Road.
I’m sure I’ve missed some, including Ian Shipley who closed some time ago. It makes me realise what an important part bookshops still play in my world beyond the parcel deliveries.