Vibrant East London is home to dozens of quirky and unique shops. In this post I’m sharing my personal list of the best independent bookshops in East London.
Have you also been reading more during these last weeks whilst being in lockdown? I used to devour books from a young age and even studied English literature at Uni. As a student, one of my favourite pastime activities was browsing old books in secondhand bookstores. Although I still haven’t read most of my purchases, I loved to seek out old books with a handsome vintage cover and beautiful illustrations. I still vividly remember how I’d run my fingers along the spines and the excitement of smelling that distinctive ‘vintage’ smell (some people would say ‘stale’) coming from those old books.
While we might be making most of our purchases from big online companies now, it’s vital to keep supporting our local independent shops. The majority of the following bookshops allow online orders, so I recommend visiting their web shops for now. And once the lockdown restrictions are lifted again, make your way to the physical stores and experience the joy of seeking out your new read.
The eight best independent bookshops in East London
Here are my eight favourite East London bookshops, listed in alphabetical order. Because some of the shops don’t allow photography inside, most photos are taken from outside.
1. Artwords Bookshop
Artwords Bookshop offers a vast collection of magazines and books on contemporary visual arts and visual culture. Specialising in beautifully designed books on graphic design, architecture, photography, fashion and fine art, it’s hard to resist leaving this shop without making a purchase!
Website: Artwords Bookshop
Address: There are two Artwords Bookshops in East London:
69 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3AY
20-22 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ
2. Brick Lane Bookshop
With its prime location on Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Brick Lane Bookshop is the perfect symbol for this independent and exciting East London neighbourhood.
Their collection includes anything from literary fiction to children’s books and travel. But being a real history nerd, I prefer their section of books on local London history.
Find my recommendations for books about London here: 5 Books About London I love.
Website: Brick Lane Bookshop
Address: 166 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU
3. The Broadway Bookshop
Located in vibrant Broadway Market, The Broadway Bookshop is an iconic shop worth a visit. The bookshop specialises in literary fiction, but is also a great destination if you’re after poetry or books on philosophy, travel, art, fashion and music.
Website: The Broadway Bookshop (no online purchases possible right now)
Address: 6 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ
4. Donlon Books
Situated at the edge of Broadway Market, Donlon Books might be a lesser-known East London bookshop. However, I really recommend visiting this rather niche bookshop one day. Especially if you’re interested in photography, music and counterculture, then this is a must-visit London bookstore for you! Their collection includes some great gems of rare and hard to find books.
Website: Donlon Books
Address: 75 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH
5. Libreria Bookshop
Both book lovers and those interested in architecture will get their kicks out of a visit to Libreria Bookshop. Its curved shelves and cosy slightly hidden reading nooks make the store a true visual delight. And due to the clever use of mirrors, the rows of books never seem to end. (They do, unfortunately.)
Their unconventional categorising system, using labels such as ‘Time and space’, ‘Home and hearth’ and ‘Mothers, madonnas and whores’, illustrates the playful character of this truly unique London bookshop.
You can read my more detailed review of Libreria bookshop in this article: Shopping: Libreria Bookshop. With such an enticing title, I bet you can’t wait to read it, ha ha!
Website: Libreria Bookshop
Address: 65 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JP
6. Pages of Hackney
Pages of Hackney is an award-winning and inclusive independent London bookshop. They pride themselves in curating a collection by diverse writers from all genders.
Their new books include anything from literary fiction to children’s books to feminism, psychology and philosophy. In the basement you can find their second-hand books, mostly crime, science fiction, art and more. And besides vintage books, you’ll also find vintage vinyl records in the basement.
I’m cheating a bit here, because the shop in the photo below is not the same bookshop as I mention in the header. The thing is, up until the coronacrisis, Pages bookshop had two locations in East London. There was one in Hackney and one on Cheshire Street, just off Brick Lane in Shoreditch. And since I’m more often in Shoreditch than Hackney, I took a photo of the first one. But unfortunately, I just found out that the Shoreditch location of Pages bookshop is permanently closed as of April 2020.
Website: Pages of Hackney
Address: 70 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0RN
7. Rough Trade East
Rough Trade East is one of the best and iconic independent record stores in London today. Starting in West London in 1976, they now have four UK stores and even one in NYC.
Besides an overwhelming amount of vinyl records, CDs and even cassettes, they also have a great book section here. The book topics vary from music biographies to (street) art, London history and much more. And as if this all isn’t enough reason for a visit already, you can also attend live gigs and special in-store events here. Or just pop in for a coffee and cake or beer.
Website: Rough Trade
Address: Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
8. Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop
Whitechapel Gallery is one of the largest and most notable art galleries in East London. Located in a glorious historical building, it hosts numerous fantastic free exhibitions a year. You can read my review of one of the most captivating shows I’ve seen here in this article: Exhibition: filmmaker and photographer Chris Marker.
Besides the engaging exhibitions, their bookshop is also a big draw for visiting the gallery. The Whitechapel Gallery Bookshop is managed by Walther Koenig Books Ltd. who specialise in beautiful books on art, architecture, photography and more. But you can also buy the special exhibition catalogues here of course.
Website: Whitechapel Gallery bookshop (online purchases will be shipped after lockdown restrictions lift)
Address: Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX
Do you also enjoy going to bookshops? Which one is your favourite? It could be anywhere in the world! I’m always happy to hear suggestions for things to do during (hopefully) future travels.
Thank you! Zarina xx
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Feature photo by Jessica F on Unsplash