London's 12 Best Indie Bookshops—Wander In, Lose Yourself

Yes, we know all about Amazon's Super Saver delivery, and how light and convenient that Kindle is compared to a stack of books in your suitcase. For our money, though, nothing can ever, ever, ever replace the joy and romance of poking around a little bookshop, cracking open a spine, and feeling the pages as we pore over 50 Shades of Grey Finnegan's Wake.
And, not to get all You've Got Mail on you guys, but we refuse to stand back and watch as London's independent, lovingly curated bookshops become an endangered species. With beloved institutions like Northcote Road's The Bolingbroke Bookshop (never forget!) going under, we feel like it's high time for readers to head back to the shops and support their local bookworms. (And no, racing into WH Smith to buy a pack of gum before your train doesn't count.)
Whether you're a cookbook connoisseur, fairy-tale fan, or heavy-duty literature lover, the independent London bookstores ahead deserve a spot on your must-visit list. We think you'll manage to survive any potential paper cuts.
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If it's art, it's here. Magma's cool and covetable stock encompasses design, typography, architecture, art, fashion, photography, and more, not to mention a stellar assortment of hard-to-find magazines (Ride Journal, Elephant), and its own range of gift items like Bird Bingo and sketchbooks. Even cooler? A section reserved for books on graffiti.

Magma, 117-119 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5BY, 020 7242 9503 and 8 Earlham Street, WC2H 9RY, 020 7240 8498

Photo: Courtesy of Magma
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Lutyens & Rubinstein
When tourists ask for directions to that bookstore in Notting Hill, they're not referring to Lutyens & Rubinstein. Their loss is our gain. What it lacks in Hugh Grant sightings, L&R has in literary prowess. Co-owners and former publishers, Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein, run their own literary agency and offer bespoke services like A Year in Books, in which they'll send a loved one a gift-wrapped tome of their choosing every month. A warning: You may be popping in for a paperback, but trust us, it's impossible to leave this place without a tote bag stuffed with new reads, arty cards and paperweights, and book-inspired scents from CB I Hate Perfume. Oh, and don't forget to check out the nearby Books for Cooks for cookbooks and foodie fiction galore.

Lutyens & Rubinstein, 21 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU, 020 7229 1010

Photo: Courtesy of Tif Loehnis for Lutyens & Rubinstein
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Clerkenwell Tales
If you can't find what you're looking for in this charming treasure trove — though their carefully curated stock of old and new fiction, biographies, and more never disappoints — the staff will happily order in new stock. How's that for customer service? Make an afternoon of it by taking your purchase straight to the Exmouth Arms just opposite for a little pint-and-paperback action.

Clerkenwell Tales, 30 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE, 020 7713 8315

Photo: Courtesy of Clerkenwell Tales
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John Sandoe
Venturing into this three-storied literary favourite is a bit like rummaging through your gran's attic. The steps are creaky, it's a tad claustrophobic, and one could easily spend all day rooting through some 25,000 titles stacked and crammed absolutely everywhere. Don't worry — you're sure to find something good, and the 18th-century building has plenty of charm.

John Sandoe, 10 Blacklands Terrace, SW3 2SR, 020 7589 9473

Photo: Courtesy of John Sandoe
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The Broadway Bookshop
If the cycle- and dog-toting crowds on Broadway Market are pushing you towards a meltdown, seek safe haven in this nook for novels. Literary fiction is the store's specialty, but you can find anything from a bestseller like Gone Girl to an obscure book of poetry. Ask about book signings and rotating art exhibitions, for which the store is known.

The Broadway Bookshop, 6 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ, 020 7241 1626

Photo: Courtesy of The Broadway Bookshop
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Persephone Books
Let's hear it for the ladies. This Russell Square gem is devoted to the work of "neglected" female writers from the past, with subjects spanning poetry, science fiction, Victoriana, travel, and more. The real joy here is discovering that each reprint has been outfitted with unique, specially designed endpapers, which make these books beautiful gifts to give (and hopefully receive).

Persephone Books, 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB, 020 7242 9292br/>
Photo: Courtesy of Persephone Books
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Daunt Books
The largest of these independent bookstores, Daunt has six locations scattered around London. But, Waterstones it's not. The original shop, in Marylebone, retains the studious character and oak galleries of the Edwardian bookshop once located here. Books are charmingly, if not conveniently, organised by region, and the author events are some of the best in town. Exhibit A: The Walking Book Club, which on 12 May, will lead readers on a stroll through Hampstead Heath to chat about The Enchanted April. See you there?

Daunt Books, 83 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QW, 020 7224 2295; 158-164 Fulham Road, SW10 9PR, 020 7373 4997; 112-114 Holland Park Avenue, W11 4UA, 020 7727 7022; 51 South End Road, NW3 2QB, 020 7794 8206; 193 Haverstock Hill, NW3 4QL, 020 7794 4006; 61 Cheapside, EC2V 6AX, 020 7248 1117

Photo: Courtesy of Daunt Books
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The Lion & Unicorn Bookshop
You know a bookstore is doing something right when Roald Dahl is present for the launch, way back in 1977. Devoted solely to children's books, from picture books to tween-appropriate sci-fi, this Richmond shop is the perfect place to reconnect with your childhood faves. But if the Gruffalo doesn't cut it, may we suggest Gangsta Granny?

The Lion & Unicorn Bookshop, 19 King Street, Richmond, TW9 1ND, 020 8940 0483

Photo: Courtesy of The Lion & Unicorn Bookshop
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Bookseller Crow
Lit lovers just can't resist flocking to this Crystal Palace bookshop. It's clear that a lot of thought went into curating the stock, which runs the gamut from graphic novel to not-your-average children's books to engrossing fiction by critically acclaimed authors. Go get your Lee Child elsewhere.

Bookseller Crow, 50 Westow Street, SE19 3AF, 020 8771 8831

Photo: Courtesy of Bookseller Crow
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Herne Hill Books
The sister store to Clapham Books, this petite outpost does a brisk trade in bestsellers, travel guides, and the usual lit fare, but it's worth hitting up the staff for a recommendation. The eclectic stock is guaranteed to turn up under-the-radar reads that you simply can't put down. Local authors also get plenty of love, and often pop in for reader events.

Herne Hill Books, 289 Railton Road, SE24 0LY, 020 7998 1673

Photo: Courtesy of Herne Hill Books
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With locations in Shoreditch and Hackney, this art-centric bookshop is a goldmine for the artsy East London crowd. Books devoted to architecture, contemporary art, and photography begged to be browsed through (or, better yet, displayed on your coffee table). Unsurprisingly, it's the excellent stock of fashion reads — a historical look at '80s style, the legacy of Viktor & Rolf — that really make us weak in the knees. DVDs, 'zines, and rare and out-of-print finds also abound.

Artwords, 69 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY, 020 7729 2000 and 20-22 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ, 020 7923 7507

Photo: Courtesy of Artwords
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Heywood Hill
This Mayfair shop is steeped in history — just look at that blue plaque! Opened in 1936 by Heywood Hill, the store once counted the late novelist Nancy Mitford among its employees, and during its heyday Evelyn Waugh described it as "a centre for all that was left of fashionable and intellectual London." These days, it's impossible to not be struck with a sense of wonder as you see the stacks of antiquarian finds (literature, travel, architecture, and history are particular strengths), while newer titles add a modern touch.

Heywood Hill, 10 Curzon Street, W1J 5HH, 020 7629 0647

Photo: Courtesy of Heywood Hill

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