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Libreria
Iwan Baan

The best places to read books in London

Looking for a new read? Head to one of these reading groups, book clubs or library bars to get your next literary fix

By Poorna Bell and Allie Abgarian
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When the author William Styron said: ‘Reading [is] the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay’, he probably had no idea how true a statement it was. If you're looking for inspiration on where to spend some quality alone time with a good read ahead of World Book Day on March 5, we have good news: you are spoilt for choice. 

London is absolutely bursting with spots to connect over books; from the hipstery streets of Hackney to a Conservative-club-turned-Brixton-pub, and from the magical shrines of public libraries and bookshops to grassroots book clubs that have sprung up across the city. Here’s our pick of the eight best places to read in London.

RECOMMENDED: London’s best bookshops

The best places to read books in London

Daunt Books

During colder months, Daunt Books' Marylebone branch and its quaint, traditional travel section is the perfect spot to hide out until the sunshine returns. While there is an excellent selection of guide books, maps and travelogues for you to choose from, many people come just for the beautiful back room with its oak balconies, viridian-green walls and stained-glass window.

Pages of Hackney

Shopping Bookshops Clapton

For more than 10 years, Pages of Hackney has been running an award-winning bookshop, and it’s always strived to do two things: connect the wider community through a love of books, and champion marginalised voices in the literary world. Aside from its vintage books collection (and floating record shop), it runs a monthly book group and author events around a particular theme.

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SHOPPING_GaysTheWord_credit_RobGreig_TOpic_001.jpg
SHOPPING_GaysTheWord_credit_RobGreig_TOpic_001.jpg
© Rob Greig

Gay’s the Word

Shopping Bookshops Bloomsbury

For 40 years, Gay’s the Word has brought LGBTQ+ literature to London, providing a place for community and for people to see themselves reflected in a world that wasn’t yet accepting. As well as operating as a bookshop, it also runs events with authors doing readings, signings and celebrations of voices and imagery within the LGBTQ+ world.

Teatulia

There are several library bars in London, whether that’s the fancy tomes at The Malt Whisky Library in Bloomsbury or fantasy world of The Fable in Holborn. But the arguably prettiest addition to the group is Teatulia, a teashop in Covent Garden that serves tea-based cocktails while you browse its Living Book Shelf, regularly curated and updated by actors, writers and musicians.

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The Riff Raff
The Riff Raff
© Alice Lubbock

The Riff Raff

The Riff Raff was set up by ‘lovely humans’ Amy Baker and Rosy Edwards and hits the motherload for book lovers. Not only does this writer's community run mentoring schemes for aspiring writers, but it also hosts events where debut authors read from their books and offer advice on how to get published. Even if you aren’t a writer, it’s a brilliant space to hang out with people who are as nerdy about books as you are.

Brixton Book Group

BBG has been going for years. Every month, the group meets in a pub in Brixton to discuss a book and you can ‘pitch’ your selection for the following month. It’s informal with a relaxed vibe and never takes itself too seriously. The range of books is great too, from science fiction to the classics.

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Rebel Book Club

On the last Tuesday of every month, members meet to discuss the chosen book. You sign up for a monthly £15 membership, which includes a voucher to pay for the book, as well as a cocktail in a secret location. Members have said that it has improved their reading habits by over 60 percent: much better than a solo mission on a Kindle.

Liberia bookshop
Liberia bookshop
Iwan Baan

Libreria

Shopping Bookshops Spitalfields

Let’s start with the fact that this shop looks like something from a literary fever-dream: undulating wall-to-ceiling shelves packed with books. Then let’s move on to the fact that rather than just ‘fiction’ or ‘self-help’, sections are labelled under words like ‘enchantment for the disenchanted’. Libreria runs monthly book-related events, as well as subscriptions where every month you get a hand-picked book. There’s even a risograph press in the basement that produces zines, books and cards if you fancy creating something papery yourself.

Loving that literary life?

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