London is a city with a rich literary heritage, but, like most things here, the books don’t come cheap. Fortunately, you can find plenty of excellent secondhand bookshops, where you can pick up a novel to help ease the boredom of the morning commute, without breaking the bank. Many of these little indies rely on local support too, so check out some of these favourites and help keep them on our streets.
1. Skoob Books
Skoob is probably one of the biggest (if not the biggest) secondhand bookshop in town. This underground treasure trove for book fans is located beneath the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury. There are extensive fiction, history and politics sections – as well as a music section that features an actual piano – and you can lose hours poking around the shelves. Vintage book fans will also be delighted by the large selection of old Penguin paperbacks which can be found scattered among the other books and in their own designated area. 66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AE.
Located at the back of West Yard, Black Gull Books is small but perfectly stocked. Peruse the more popular titles on the bookstands outside then head inside to discover plenty more, from fiction to cooking, and psychology to poetry. Black Gull also has an outpost up in East Finchley, with a decent selection of antiquarian titles and books for younger readers. 70-71 Camden Lock Place, NW1 8AF.
What could be better than a floating secondhand bookshop? A floating secondhand bookshop that also hosts jazz musicians and has a cosy wood-burning stove, that's what. Word on the Water is a total one-off, with its books housed on shelves inside an old barge, and laid out along the towpath wherever it's currently moored. Make sure you check out the shop's Twitter feed to find out where Word on the Water currently is before you try to visit! Regents Canal.
4. Walden Books
On a nondescript residential street between Camden and Kentish Town sits Walden Books. Lots of bookstands beneath a big green awning almost block out the shop behind them, but make sure you explore this spot fully inside and out. The owners of Walden Books have stocked their shelves with a fascinating array of rare and out-of-print titles, and are happy to help you navigate the shelves or suggest something that might interest you. Particular areas of focus include literature and art, but you can find plenty of fiction, poetry, history and travel. 38 Harmood Street, NW1 8DP.
Charing Cross Road was once a noted centre for bookshops in London, and while many have sadly been priced out, a few remain. One of the most delightful to explore is Any Amount of Books, which entices you in with its stalls of cut-price paperbacks. The shop frequently buys up extensive book collections, making for an ever-changing selection to suit book-buyers of any budget. It's also much bigger than it first appears, so don't forget to check out the basement when you pop in. 56 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0QA.