North London Food & Culture

7 North London bookshops we’re pleased to step inside again

From second-hand to brand spanking new, it's heart-warming to see all these back up and running

Bookshops! How we’ve missed you. Over the last week or two we’ve loved standing in front of a colourfully crowded shelf or piled-high table, fingering (with sanitised hands, of course) the new paperbacks and chunky hardbacks.

Stuck for what to buy? Three recent novels I’ve ticked off during these last lockdown weeks include Matt Haig’s enjoyably fun-but-serious fantasy romp Midnight Library, a must if you feel you’ve lost your way a bit in life (yep, know that one); Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain, which, despite its weighty subject matter, is neither depressing nor downbeat; and the rather poetic Summerwater by Sarah Moss, a thoughtful meditation on life through the eyes of different holiday-makers trapped in a rain-drenched Scottish holiday park.

But if you’re anything like me, you’ll have your own ever-extending list. Tip: you could string these seven stores together and make an impromptu sunny weekend literary pilgrimage.

Like a movie set: Walden Books. Photo: own

Walden Books
This second-hand gem has been tucked away on Harmood Street, off Chalk Farm Road, for over 40 years. Read owner David Tolbin’s own first-person account of its story in our earlier article here.


Word On The Water
The famous little canalside store (pictured below) on the tip of Granary Square even floats; the log-burner is especially romantic if you’re a narrowboat dreamer. Read our original interview with characterful owner Jonathan Privett here. @word_on_the_water

A Kentish Town Road institution that will celebrate a massive 50 years in 2024. Manager Gary McLaren has been in situ – incredibly – since 1986. So if there’s one person to ask about its history, it’s him. Read our interview here. @owl.bookshop

Word On Water
Word on the Water: another beauty. Photo: Dan Hall

A unique King’s Cross literary destination, this radical bookshop has been at the bottom of Cally Road since 1959, although it dates back itself to 1945. Read the story of Housmans and more about this one-off London bookshop here.

Primrose Hill Books
You gotta love a little stroll along Regent’s Park Road and a nosey at the second-hand tomes outside this classic north London booksellers. Pleasantly chaotic inside, it’s easy to lose half an hour within its comforting walls.

Oxfam Books and Amnesty International Books, Kentish Town Road. Both these are brilliant places for a leisurely rummage: you may even find a whole stash of my unwanted paperbacks at the latter, the beneficiary of a very big clearout just pre-Covid.

Got a favourite bookshop? Tell us on social media @kentishtowner. Check out our Instagram account @londonbelongs for two more bookshops we recommend in North and East London here.

Please support us if you can

If you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you could help out? In November 2021, Kentishtowner will celebrate its 11th birthday. But with the sad demise of our free independent monthly print titles due to advertising revenues in freefall, we need your support more than ever to continue delivering cultural stories that celebrate our neighbourhood. Every contribution is invaluable in helping the costs of running the website and the time invested in the research and writing of the articles published. Support Kentishtowner here for less than the price of a coffee – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.