Not many people know this about me but I am a book nerd with an unhealthy (I am told) passion for books. Nothing gives me more joy than holding a book with its yellowing pages, taking in its rustic aroma and mentally traveling to a “place” where I have never been before. I have maintained in this blog that I have too many alter-egos; to many voices in my head (in a good way) and it does not surprise me when the book lover wins the match and comes out strong. I can easily make more space in my humble abode; give away my stylish clothes only to make more room for my beloved books. Even in this age of Kindle, tablets, Amazon and big-chain bookshops nothing gives me more joy than discovering and getting lost inside an old bookshop.

From Samuel Johnson to Charles Dickens to Geoffrey Chaucer (who was buried at the Poets’ Corner; Westminster Abbey) London has been home to many writers. Hence, it is no surprise that London is also the city where past and present, real life and fiction collide with each other giving it an upbeat, eclectic and ever-changing kaleidoscope. Here, I will share some of my favourite book havens. It is a humble list but then I am in no hurry to discover London’s best literary spots because discovering a book shop is like reading a great piece of work and I would rather savour the whole experience than rushing and spoiling the journey.

Southbank Book Market:

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Okay, I am a bit partial to this London spot. If I have to choose one favourite place in London; I would promptly say Southbank. I don’t know why this place seems so special perhaps it is the incessant buzz of people, perhaps it the calming sight of River Thames or perhaps it is this Book Market itself; Southbank never fails to cheer me up. I accidently stumbled upon this market whilst waiting for a friend, some moons ago and even today I can easily spend hours browsing through this market.

Tucked under Waterloo Bridge, you’ll find the Southbank Centre Book Market: a place brimming with students, tourists, aspiring photographers, wanderers and book nerds like me. This Book Market is not exactly a book shop but a book space (when have I cared for definitions!!) The place has an eclectic collection of books from Maya Angelou’s poetry to Encyclopedias from dog-eared copies of Dickens and Enid Blyton to mass-market copies of contemporary writers from Jane Austen to Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, sadly!) It is a spot where you will find Sylvia Plath and Meera Syal happily living together with Calvin and Hobbes and Wodehouse. What’s more? You can buy books from as less as 99 pence—no deal can be sweeter, don’t you think?

Books for Cooks, Notting Hill:

Image via Books for Cooks

Image via Books for Cooks

Whilst I find every day cooking to be a monotonous task; some days when inspiration strikes I actually love meddling in the kitchen and trying out new dishes.  I can make a decent meal but I must confess I am not a seasoned cook, I ALWAYS need the help of cook books or videos. When exploring Notting Hill on a lazy afternoon with a friend; we stumbled upon this little cookery haven. You will find cook books from floor to ceiling.

Books for Cooks was founded in 1983 by Heidi Lascelles, a nurse who understood the importance a well-cooked meal but was stunned to find that not many bookshops stocked cook books. This place was thus born. There are over 8,000 titles from simple recipe books to foodie fiction from books on nutrition to food history, sociology and chemistry. The place is like never-ending food porn that can make even the most determined dieter salivate and hungry. The only piece of caution: try to go with a full-stomach browsing through their rich collection will definitely make your stomach grumble.

Brick Lane Bookshop:

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The Brick Lane market is one of the wildest and quirkiest markets in London that refuses to give up its originality and character.  The same is true for this beautiful, independent bookshop. Go through its narrow door and you will be instantly transported into a world that has an unmistakable old charm about it, a place full of warmth and unique character.

This bookshop is definitely a place where you need to forget time, the at times irritating ring of the phone and devour its every nook and cranny slowly as if in a meditation. This bookshop has an enviable collection of poetry, fiction, sci-fi, comic books and graphic novels—a never ending list really. You will find Kafka, Tolstoy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to East London literature. The collection, hence, is varied, diverse and most importantly top-notch. They also have a buzzing book group and conduct writing workshops.

The Brick Lane Bookshop also strikes a good balance when it comes to pricing. Whilst books on the shelves are sold at full retail price; on the ground you will find boxes where you can get some true treasures for as less as £3! The place is filled with little seats and two comfy lounge chairs and a plethora of cushions—a perfect atmosphere to enjoy some solitude; snuggled up with your favourite read.

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Yes, I want some change too

The world is really divided into two groups—one who loves Brick Lane and one who loathes it. One can only sympathise with the latter for Brick Lane is not your ordinary Sunday market but a maelstrom of different cultures, people and persuasions meant for the open-minded and the adventurous at heart. It’s a place where Western promise meets East End madness and the result is truly mind blowing. Get up early on a Sunday morning and head towards the market, located on the northern end of Brick Lane and along Cheshire Street in East London.

Brick Lane market is not easy to miss; it’s a place where posh boutiques stand in comfortable ease with ramshackle stalls selling a plethora of eclectic goods from old books, antique cameras, vintage clothes to cutesy bric-a-brac. A place popularised by bargain hunters, art students and curry houses, Brick Lane is the part skipped by tourists in their luxury cars. It is unpolished, little wild, rough around the edges and absolutely unafraid.

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Whatcha looking at?

Don’t miss the Vintage market put up at the Truman Brewery every Sunday between 10AM-5PM. It’s a place where you will find arrays of stalls peppered with accessories, glam fur coats, vintage frocks and men’s suits from 1920s to the 1990s.

Whilst there are many Indian and Bangladeshi curry houses, on Sundays, the market is bustling with food vendors offering cuisines from every corner of the planet. Chomp in some authentic Ethiopian food or sip Turkish coffee, dig in Chowmein from Tibet or have a tasty dish of Pad Thai. The food like everything else here perfectly embodies the rich cultural diversity that London itself offers.

Saunter around its dynamic streets and indulge in shameless people-watching. Wherever you go peppy street music and colourful street art pleasantly accompanies you. In short, Brick Lane is a bundle of contradictions—it’s ordinary yet extraordinary, predictable yet exotic, bizarre yet classic.

Just don’t forget to reach early (around 9AM) to get the best bargains. The nearest tube is Aldgate East and overground is Liverpool Street. And bring some cash; finding a cash machine in this labyrinth is tougher than solving the riddle of Mona Lisa.

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