Reading in London

London is great for a book lover, it’s steeped in literary history and there’s loads of places to read, borrow and buy books.

For quiet(ish) reading

The Wellcome Collection Reading Room
The lights! The giant stair cushions! The strange art!

For borrowing

Swiss Cottage Library
A good selection of books, nice high ceilings and importantly – long opening hours.

Barbican Library
The concrete confusion that is the Barbican actually hosts a cosy library with a well-stocked music section.

For buying

Tucked down the stairs in the Brunswick Centre near Russell Square is a basement bursting at the seams (and shelves) with secondhand books. Good luck leaving empty handed.

Since it’s overhaul a few years ago Foyles always seems to be humming with activity, all the way to it’s fifth floor coffee shop and gallery. Great for a huge range and knowledgable book sellers.

Word on the Water

Find this floating bookshop on the canal by Kings Cross.

For literary history

Sylvia Plath’s House

A few roads over from Primrose Hill is the picture-perfect pastel Chalcot Square. Sylvia Plath lived in a tiny flat here for less than 3 years with her husband. It was here she wrote many poems about London, gave birth to a daughter and hosted friends and fellow writers.

The Spaniards Inn

The Spaniards Inn is well worth the journey from central London out to Hampstead because 1) there’s alcohol in it 2) its has cosy rooms and a beer garden 3) it counts Keats and Byron as former patrons, and it’s referenced in Dracula and the Pickwick Papers.

Treasures of the British Library

If you’re a book nerd tight on time in London the British library is the place to go – it’s the second largest library in the world. It’s permanent collection ‘Treasures of the British Library’ is a book-ish all-you-can-eat, featuring Shakespeare’s first folio, Austen’s writing desk, and my favourite – original writings by Angela Carter.