Thursday 2 September 2010

England's Lane Books

Picture by The Bookseller
I've written here before about my love for small, quirky independent bookshops. Such as Mr's B's Emporium in Bath, a lovely book-smelling heaven where staff know their onions (or even their literature) and where you can be assured of a quiet, friendly atmosphere to browse for books.

I thought this kind of bookish idyll could only be found in rural towns. Or that this was a mode of buying books especially made for World Heritage Cities such as Bath. Surely the Notting Hill kind of bookshops where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have their romantic rendezvous only existed in Richard Curtis-land? But no, my theories of what can and cannot be found here in the big city of London are once again proven wrong.

I first saw my new place of employment last May (here I have to declare my vested interest in this blog post). It was then only a painted shell of a shop. Husband and I drove past it at the end of one of our hectic and stressful flat-hunting jaunts up to town. We'd just seen a series of very expensive, very small, very dark apartments and were both secretly thinking that the Big Move to London would never materialise, unless we'd win the roll-over on the Lottery (which we never play), when I suddenly shouted, 'Look, a book shop!' I turned to Husband and yelled louder,  'A NEW book shop!'

Husband slammed the breaks on and pulled in outside the red façade. Luckily there was no-one behind us on England's Lane, NW3, because I doubt he had time to check his mirror. 'Christ,' he muttered under his breath. I gave him a murderous look and ran out of the car. And there indeed, a most wonderful thing to me was taking shape. I couldn't look inside as the windows were wrapped up but there was a notice saying the bookshop would open soon. You may think me a little batty, but I felt like a child who'd just been given a ticket to Charlie's Chocolate Factory.

Now a few months later, England's Lane Books still smells new. Perhaps its the constantly updated stock of titles - the smell of new books - rather than the freshness of the space itself, but when I enter the shop I get a sense of novelty. Browsing the shelves I notice titles old and new. There's the Booker long-listed novels, such as 'The Slap' by Christopher Tsiolkas which I had to get, in spite - or possibly because - of its opening paragraph. There are beautiful non-fiction books on anything you might ever think of wanting to know more about. I was fascinated by a book on how different cities chart their transport systems, 'Transit Maps of the World' by Mark Ovenden (This could be an excellent gift idea for my fellow blogger Tristram - I believe his birthday is only a month away) as well as the many art and fashion titles, all beautifully bound and, ah, so tempting.

Further down the shop there are Deluxe editions of classics from Wuthering Heights to the Jeeves and Wooster -series to The New York Trigoly by Paul Auster. These are all beautiful books, and excellent present ideas for those of one's friends and family who have everything. And then there's my very favourite section - crime.

England's Lane Books also stocks a huge selection of children's books; holds a regular, twice-weekly children's story time, and even has a place for resting your weary feet, young or old.

But before I descend into complete PR lingo, I'll just mention that the great Ruth Rendell will be gracing the shop with her marvellous presence soon. Tickets are on sale now, here. (Sorry for the unashamed advertising, but I hope you agree it's for a good cause).


Kim said...

it looks completely delightful and you should PR away- when it comes to bookshops no one sensible minds at all

Karen Jones Gowen said...

What an interesting post, only I'm confused-- did you find this place and buy it and turn it into the beautiful spot pictured? Or do you work here? I'd love to know the whole story! I don't see it as PR. And I wish these kinds of stores existed in the U.S. There's a few but they're really disappearing fast. First it was Barnes & Noble that drove them out, then Amazon, and now the Kindle.

Unknown said...

KarenG, I wish I owned, I just work there part-time and so far absolutely loving it. I hope the trend of disappearing bookshops isn't heading this way. xx

Mr London Street said...

I would love to live in Hampstead and work for an independent bookshop. I think, short of a colossal pay rise for my other half or a lottery win, reading your blog is the closest I'm going to get.

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry, JulieB, but I somehow managed to delete this comment!

JulieB has left a new comment on your post "England's Lane Books":

My big dream upon winning the lottery would be to open an independent book shop - the kind of place where there is the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and regulars come to browse and chat. I would have to be a lottery winner to afford this, as I think I would probably be terrible at selling them - I would spend all my time reading!
You lucky lady - it does look fabulous.

Unknown said...

JulieB and Mr Londonstreet, I know I'm lucky. xx

sharon santoni at my french country home said...

Loved this ode to a bookshop - the way yu wrote it and the London context made me think of the lovely novel 84 charring cross road. I'm sure you know this one - I love it.
Thank you for stopping by
My French Country Home

PS I also love your 4 line definition of the differences between a Finn and an Englishman - very clever!

Marta G. (A Bilingual Baby) said...

Hi! Lucky you! I love bookshops and that sofa is calling me: come here and read! I've heard there's a small town in Wales with tens of bookshops, I can't remember the name (I've never remembered a Welsh name, I just can't pronounce them, too difficult...)

Alison Cross said...

Oh how I love bookshops! Your new shop looks wonderful. As the laws of synchronicity would have it, I've been writing about new journals in MY local bookshop.

Isn't that weird?!

melissa said...

Hello, Thanks for popping by my blog - I'm now following your blog as well :)
What a lovely bookshop, I wish I could find something like that out in my part of the sticks!

Jeanne Henriques said...

Great post Helena...I am thining that this bookshop is a must for my 'to do'list. I am looking for 'The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street' by Helen you know it? It is the sort of book you want to buy in a bookshop as lovely as this. I read in once and left it in my travels. Should have kept it!!

Best wishes for a well read weekend!

Jeanne :)

Marta G. (A Bilingual Baby) said...

Hi Helena! My comment is lost somewhere! Anyway, the place looks really cozy. Lucky you! There's a town in Wales with tens of little bookshops, but I can't remember the name, sorry! I hope you can see this comment. Have a nice weekend!

Metropolitan Mum said...

How lovely. Congratulations!
In fact, there are a few very cosy bookshops in Notting Hill. I love the children's book shop and Books for Cooks, both on Blenheim Crescent. Where you'll also find said Travel book shop :)

Northern Snippet said...

Love book shops.I'm really into the second hand ones.But any one will do especially those with a sofa.

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Helena, how lovely to work there. I used to go in there a lot. I'm sure I've said I grew up in Hampstead. I'm so pleased you're enjoying your new home xx

Anonymous said...

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