5 quiet charity and second hand bookshops in London

Whenever I’m exploring a charity or second hand book shop, in London or anywhere around the UK, I’m reminded of a Kurt Cobain quote that sums up why exploring second hand is so rewarding:

“I look back at going to second hand stores and I was almost just as happy finding a little treasure… When you find it it’s more special to you rather than having a thousand dollars and going into a store like that or buying the whole store.”

Kurt Cobain

That’s why I love shopping in charity and second hand bookshops over even independent “new” book shops: not knowing what you’re going to find, and coming out with a heap of books that you might not have stumbled upon on shelves of pristine, perfectly-organised, “new” books.

The mystery of a second hand or charity book shopping trip makes it more exciting, and the digging around of your favourite section is all worth it when you find a book you never knew you wanted. Looking outside of your “comfort zone” is sometimes the best way to discover something new; I’ve got Books for Amnesty in Hammersmith to thank for introducing me to one of the only fiction books I’ve devoured in the past couple of years (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”).

Let’s start exploring… here are my favourite quiet charity and second hand book shops in central London.

1. Oxfam, Marylebone

Oxfam Marylebone, London

Picture credit: A Peace of London

Next time you go to Daunt Books, pop into Oxfam on your way back to Bond Street. It might not be as posh or as famous as the independent bookshop down the road, but the charity’s flagship London bookshop on Marylebone High Street rivals its bigger neighbours for choice and, of course, interest. They have a decent travel section, and something for everyone among their 7,000 books.

Opening times: Monday – Saturday 10am-5.45pm; Sunday 11am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Bond Street

More information: Oxfam website

2. Skoob Books

Skoob Books, Russell Square, London

Picture credit: Skoob Books

Skoob Books is not just one of my favourite book shops in London: it’s one of my favourite places in London full stop. I head there as much as I can, mainly because I can guarantee to be able to switch off every time I go there.

A visit to Skoob never disappoints: their history, science, and philosophy collections are second-to-none; you can count on perfect silence since customers and staff alike are respectful of the atmosphere; and it’s in the basement so there’s no mobile phone signal or noise from the street outside. Fantastic.

Opening times: 10.30am-8pm Monday-Saturday, 10.30am-6pm Sundays and Bank Holidays

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Skoob Books website or read my review here

3. Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith

Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith, London

Picture credit: Kake on Flickr

Amnesty Bookshop in Hammersmith was one of the first quiet places I wrote about on this blog, and I was gutted when I found out that it had closed. Luckily, it opened again this year (hooray!) at a bigger shop with more choice!

It’s a lovely place and perfectly quiet: the volunteers will leave you alone to browse and I once got Michael Palin’s humongous autobiographies for £2.50 here, as well as my prized 1907 copy of The Charm of London from their shelves for older books and the aforementioned zombie novel.

Hammersmith, I’m jealous.

Opening times: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm; closed on Sunday

Nearest Tube: Hammersmith

More information: Amnesty International website

4. Any Amount of Books

Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road, London

Picture credit: A Peace of London

Imagine an Aladdin’s cave of books, and you’ll have hit upon what Any Amount of Books feels like. It’s exactly how you’d picture a classic second hand book shop: shelves upon shelves of leather-bound finds, antique books, first editions, poetry, and history line the walls; boxes of new stock fill every space; and the rooms are put together all higgledy-piggledy so that you feel like you’re going further into the depths as you browse.

It’s hard to imagine that perfect silence and unique charm could be sought anywhere near Leicester Square, but this slightly dishevelled – and perfectly endearing – shop has achieved it.

Opening times: 10:30am-9:30pm daily

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

More information: Any Amount of Books website

5. Royal Trinity Hospice bookshop, Notting Hill

books

Picture credit: A Peace of London

This little shop used to be one of my favourites while I worked in High Street Kensington: not only are its quiet walls the perfect antidote to a long day in a busy newsroom, but their stock has something special about it.

Maybe it’s the fact that I bought a copy of The Oatmeal’s book here (those were some good times on the Tube home that day), or the time I bought an illustrated version of “When I Am Old” (my mum’s favourite poem) here, but there’s something about this place that’s quirky, down-to-earth and unapologetic.

The shop used to be in Kensington Church Street, and has now moved to 20a Notting Hill Gate.

Opening times: Monday – Saturday 10am-6pm; Sunday 11am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate

More information: Royal Trinity Hospice website

sign-off-message-5

 

You might like…

Want more quiet places in London?

You got it! Enter your email address below and hit 'Subscribe' to be notified when a new post is published (once or twice a week).

quiet second hand book shops in london

Comments (03)

  1. I too love to browse through second hand books. I particularly like the very old finds, especially those that come at unexpectedly low prices. Just over a year ago I found a copy of “Journal of a Voyage to Australia” by Col. S. B. Bevington J.P. It is quite a small hard back book from around 1894 (I like small books), an ex library copy, and slightly damaged. But the fact that it is not perfect makes it somehow more special to me. It is also fun to research the books’ authors. For example, I found Colonel Bevington on several websites thanks to Google searches. He was the first mayor of Bermondsey, and his family once lived at 34 Gracechurch Street in London. The family business, Bevingtons and Sons Limited, was leather manufacturing, associated with tanning for some 300 years. The last time my copy of his book was taken out of the Sevenoaks Public Library appears to be in December 1917, but that label too is damaged. I purchased my book for £10. I like to read Kindle books on my iPad and even on my phone, but I will never get rid of my collection of old books.

    1. Hi David, thanks so much for your comment! I love small books too: my old 1907 book is small and hard-backed just as you describe. It has such a lovely charm to it; it’s also got some great quotes in it that I wouldn’t find anywhere else. I like that it’s got a history and I often wonder how many other owners it’s had, what their stories are and how it ended up in a little shop in Hammersmith. You’ll never get that with a Kindle or even a new book, convenient as they are. I’d love to own some classic first editions one day, although the budget won’t quite allow for it at the moment… but we can dream!

Post a new comment