Week 1: The Kennington Bookshop


The Kennington Bookshop

The Kennington Bookshop, 306-8 Kennington Road, SE11 4LD

For my first trick, I won’t venture too far from home.  People ’round these parts say that South London deserves far more credit than it actually gets and in order to right the balance, I’ll proceed to shower this appealing little shop on Kennington Road with accolades.  It looks clean and simple from the outside and in the airy front room, the books are arranged by someone who evidently loves books.  For a geek like me, there’s a certain sense of triumph in the way that little tables are set up throughout the shop in ways that actually make sense. 

My favourite table featured (in an exquisite colour-coded order) Penguin’s Great Ideas series, which are small books filled with the musings of some of the great minds of the literary past, many of them writing about writing, or about reading, or about literature.  I picked up Marcel Proust’s “Days of Reading”, a beautiful little book that only set me back £4.99. Score!

The shop also has a whole section of books about London and about England which, for a phony-Londoner like me, are always interesting, though I don’t like to spend too long looking at them lest someone discover that I am, in fact, just pretending to be a native.  Once again, these books are laid out beautifully by someone who is clearly a reader him/herself.  And I approve.

My favourite thing about this bookshop is that in addition to the pristine upstairs, there’s a downstairs with second hand books which, aside from the sentimental attachment I have to pre-loved books, is always helpful for us poor literature students.

Every time I’ve bought a book in this shop the staff at the till have always been lovely. They’ve talked shop with me, told me how much they love the book I’m buying or, in one situation, warned me not to bother as it doesn’t live up to the hype (who doesn’t appreciate honesty?).  My favourite experience was when their card machines were down and the man at the till had to take my debit card details manually and proceeded to tell me stories of bookselling in “the old days”.  What a star.

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4 responses to “Week 1: The Kennington Bookshop

  1. What wonderful insights to hidden bookstores. As a booklover, I appreciate knowing the hidden enclaves that I can visit when I next come to London. This is superb info. Does 84 Charing Cross still exist?

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    • I hope to hear more from this blog.

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    • Good question, Wen! Depressingly, the address 84 Charing Cross Road is now the site of a Pizza Hut. Tragic, right? But I heard an urban legend that that’s because years after the book was written, the numbering system on the road was changed around and so the bookshop that would once have been at number 84 is still around, but it’s now 120something. I’m not sure how much truth there is in this, but I’ll look into it for you and let you know!

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  2. Pingback: The Calder Bookshop Theatre | The Matilda Project

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