The London Bookshop Crawl

I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops.


Some go in for rummaging in charity shops, crawling about to trawl through racks of clothes. Others go in for a pub crawl with their mates and then crawl home too. But me, being prematurely 70 years old, I opt for bookshops, so when I saw NinjaBookbox’s London Bookshop Crawl, I was very excited.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I was too late in booking tickets to get a place on one of the guided tours. Instead, I enlisted the help of a friend better up on the streets of London than myself and we set out to explore London’s bookshops. After a bit of a fumble on timing and a cup of coffee in a nearby café, we began our crawl in the lovely Belgravia Books. In which, I picked up London Stories: a collection of short stories unsurprisingly set in London.

Good job Barb!

From here we headed toward Sloane Square to discover what rapidly became one of my favourite bookshops in all of London, The BookHaus. A cozy little shop set back off the busy street, TheBookHaus offers a relaxed atmosphere and a bargain box filled with books selling for £3 for paperbacks-£5 for hardbacks. The BookHaus is also part of the publishing house of the same name which is housed in the offices above the shop. I was lucky enough to speak to two of the editors, Emma and Silvana (pictured in the featured image), at great length about everything from literature and upcoming publications to how picturesque the shop is. Time incredibly well spent in my opinion. Continue reading “The London Bookshop Crawl”

Save the Date: February 18th

What’s better than getting drunk in the afternoon and regretting it the next day? Getting out and meeting strangers interested in London’s best bookshops and a bookish quiz, that’s what!

No, I’m not getting married, much to the disappointment of my mother. But this is better than a wedding: The London Bookshop Crawl  organised by Ninja Book Box. It’s like a pub crawl but better, even if the pub crawl might be wetter.

Moz, cut the prosaic nonsense, tell us what it is. Ok, ok, The London Bookshop Crawl is exactly what it says on the tin: an afternoon of crawling through some of London’s best independent (and some non-indie) bookshops with other book lovers and potential new friends. What better way to spend a February Saturday?

Currently, the spaces on the guided tours are all taken but there are still FREE tickets available if you want to trail through the shops at your own leisure. Tickets are available through Eventbrite (click here to register for yours).

Unfortunately I was also late to the party, so I’ve missed out on one of the guided tours too but am on the waiting list should a space become available! You can also sign up to take part in the “Bookish” quiz taking place after the crawl which promises to be a great chance to meet some new people and maybe get to know those you bumped into along the way of the book crawl.

I for one am excited. Maybe you are too, check out the event’s Facebook Page for more details and updates!


So How Are You Connected to the Author?

Have you ever turned up and just known you have over-sold yourself to get there? Moz does.

Person: So how are you connected with the author?

Damn, I hadn’t actually prepared for that question. In fact, I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that people would ask about me at the book launch of Alan Hollinghurst: Writing Under the Influence. Thus I spent the first twenty minutes (read: first glass of wine) feeling quite the fraud: A supposed book blogger at the launch of a book about an author I’d never so much as heard of. Journalistic integrity, catholic guilt, and that glass of wine obliged me to profess my ignorance to anyone who happened to drift onto the subject. To my utter shame.

Thankfully, my partner came to the rescue by having actually read at least one of Hollinghust’s works and being able to discuss it with those who asked. As you can see in the featured image we were at a book launch of an academic review of Alan Hollinghurst’s work thus far, which I’m genuinely shocked I haven’t read as is he an incredibly acclaimed author worldwide, having once been compared to Oscar Wilde (and indeed outmatching Wilde in a review by Nicholson Baker for the London Review of Books).


The launch was held in the intimate setting of Gay’s the Word (previously mentioned here) where there was a warm welcome and a glass (or two) of wine for everyone, including this interloper. We moved ourselves toward the back of the shop where there seemed to be an opening in the crowd and found ourselves not only next to the soapbox for the introductions but also in conversation with one of the contributors to the book being launched. By the way, I hear chapter six is among the most interesting in Writing Under the Influence.

img-20161009-wa0000.jpgThe editors, Michelle Mendelssohn and Dennis Flannery, spoke eloquently yet briefly about how they had come by the idea for writing this book on the work of Hollinghurst. I believe there was come serendipitous cliff-side yoga poses and a whole lot of magic. Then the man himself took to the stage, or rather the mic, to say a word of thanks for the honour of the praise they have offered. Hollinghurst was modest and charming in his short speech but also while mingling with those at the launch even agreeing to sign a copy of his book for his newest fan. Although some cheeky fan did grab him right as he was about to leave and ask for an autograph and a photo (see left) to which he had a witty retort but agreed to with a smile nonetheless.

The venue lent itself to the occasion with ease. Being the number one place for Lesbian and Gay literature of all varieties, there was a distinct atmosphere of inclusion allowing even the uninitiated a chance to mingle with the aspiring writers and big fans alike. Jim, the owner of Gay’s the Word poured wine and sold books, all the while laughing and joking with his customers. Dennis and Michelle, the editors, rubbed shoulders, told jokes and made everyone they spoke to laugh with advice for how to best utilise signed copies of Writing Under the Influence. In all, I was delighted to have been there to meet Alan Hollinghurst et al. and have set about finding his novels (of which, a list can be found here). Let’s hope I’ll be asked back for another launch when his next novel emerges next summer.


Interview: Jon of Word on the Water

Well, the way I look at it is if it doesn’t sell today, it’ll sell tomorrow. You know what I mean. Like as I was saying many bookshops closed because they wanted the quick sell but that just not how it is now.

You may or may not have seen it, but earlier this week I found the place at Word on the Water, the London bookbarge. Needless to say, the name alone had my wordplay side gripped from the moment I saw it. After I left, I could not stop thinking about how it had come about, and got on the Facebook to ask for a word with them to fulfil my craving.

Thankfully Jon, the owner, agreed to talk with me when I went back to visit later in the week. The afternoon was warm and sunny when I went back to meet Jon, and being the amateur I am I had prepared a pen and paper set of questions. Almost immediately I regretted this decision as Jon had so much to say I tidied them away pretty quickly. Let’s skip the rest of the rigmarole I keep typing and erasing and get down to what we actually spoke about…

So, I suppose my first question would have to be when did you start up the bookbarge, and how did you come up with the idea?

Jon: Well in 2011, we started up here because…well I had a bookstall, I still do, it runs on Saturdays at Archway, word on the Street that is. But anyway, so my mate he lost his job and came to work on the bookstall. And we were living down the canal at the time and one morning he said to me “Wouldn’t it be good if we could just stay at the canal and didn’t have to go to work?”. And so that’s what happened.

Wow, that’s literally the dream, wouldn’t it be good to have work come to you. So, does the barge have to move along the canal, I imagine barges aren’t often stationary?

Continue reading “Interview: Jon of Word on the Water”

Word on the Water

The atmosphere at the barge is laid back and as the kids are saying these days: chill. The ships dog lolls about soaking in the sunshine and the jazz while Jon watches the people decide what they’re reading next.

Have you ever gone somewhere and instantly fallen in love with it? Not the butterflies in the stomach, lightheaded kind of infatuation, but the deep feeling of belonging that comes with true love? A kind of comfort and peace that makes you think “Hey, I could get used to this…”

Recently, due to a rather dramatic incident involving the severe heat of 31 degrees (we’re in London, that’s hot for September) and a computer who clearly had enough to burst into flames (and a hot tip from a friend), I found such a place: Word on the Water.


Having grown up in a city criss-crossed by canals I do find the canal a particularly peaceful place to be. There’s waterways, but it’s free of the rush and tumult that accompanies a full-blown river. Also, they’re shallow, so if like me you aren’t the strongest swimmer, well you probably aren’t going to drown should you fall in. So, this place was already off to a great start for me.

As you can see here the books outside the barge are a curated collection of second hand volumes chosen by Jon, the owner, to reflect his interests and also what people are reading. Inside there’s a different story, it’s a beautifully managed mixture of new paperback, new hardbacks (I do love a good hardback myself), and old hardbacks of classics which “If they don’t sell today, will sell tomorrow” Jon told me in a brief but very enjoyable conversation.

The atmosphere at the barge is laid back and as the kids are saying these days: chill. The ships dog lolls about soaking in the sunshine and the jazz while Jon watches the people decide what they’re reading next. Standing in the sunshine looking at the barge, I wanted to blow off the evening of study and pop to the shops for some coffee or a sneaky G&T to unwind by the water and listen the the music while reading whatever it was I happened to pick up.

Keep an eye out for my interview with Jon in the coming days, or better yet visit Word on the Water yourself if you happen to be in King’s Cross with a few minutes to spare, you will not regret it.

The London Bookbarge, Word on the Water, can be found on Regents Canal just behind King’s Cross station. Take the steps down from Granary Square and follow the canal. The shop is open from 12-7 every day so there’s really no excuse for not going. It’s not to be missed!