Bookshops I Love; Foyles, Charing Cross Road

I cannot remember the first time I ever walked into Foyles because it has become so etched in my brain as a bookshop and I lived in London from the age of eighteen so have been visiting since sometime around then, yes even in those years when I thought books were rubbish. This is partly because I dated someone booky when I was not long to London and so would head there for their book fix and my cake fix. They would read in bed, I would listen to Steps or something even more embarrassing. Moving swiftly on a few years, Foyles then of course became a book haven once I became addicted to books and book shopping.

I have to admit I was skeptical about the Foyles move, even when I saw this video – be warned it is utter book porn and causes moments of utter jealousy. You see part of its charm in the old building on Charing Cross Road was that it felt like it had been there for ages, the books and shelves housing them having settled in their skin, the fact you may be stuck in that lift four hours and a day with your purchases (terrifying and thrilling all at once) and it had the history of events and meetings there for me over the years. Well, I bloody love the new one…

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A dream book shop to me is one that you want to spend hours and hours in and that is what the new store, which has taken over the former Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design site, is. In fact I was tempted to bring a sleeping bag to my second meeting there and ask if I could just move in for a while, there is still time. It is one of the airiest and most spacious feeling bookshops I have been in for quite some time and yet with its mezzanine levels keeps the quirkiness of its old former home. You want to spend hours  wandering the many floors looking for something particular or indeed just intent on browsing the shelves. I don’t know about you but I can happily spend at least half a day going through a stores fiction, crime, graphic novel and nonfiction sections. Easily.

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There is also a corking event space, which it is surreal to say I have spoken in of late, and I would recommend you keep your eyes on what the guys at Foyles have coming up. Like all great bookstores it too has the facilities to allow yourself to do that and keep watered/caffeinated and fed with its wonderful cafe which you can happily content yourself in for several hours as The Beard reliably informed me when I was in for a long meeting and left him very much in the non-reading much feeding crèche as I have renamed it.

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The view from which is also quite a sight to behold…

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There is even a gallery, which has different collections in at different times, to keep any book widow happy for a while. There is also a wonderful stationery and gift section which I was too busy fawning over to actually grab a snap.

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Highly important is that the new store is also the sort of store that I think will inspire future readers. I mean what child wouldn’t want to spend hours and hours reading Mr Men and playing with Peppa Pig (if you are reading Foyles make a crèche and seriously you will have families in all day, parents browsing above)…

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What I also love about Foyles, indeed it is one of the reasons I emailed them on the cheeky off chance they might want to work with the Green Carnation Prize, is that whilst it is now becoming a chain of stores and indeed the Charing Cross Branch is HUGE it feels like an independent you would find in a village somewhere off the beaten track where you might find books you didn’t think of buying but simply have to have. The staff really know their stuff and more often than not will recommend you something you might not have thought of trying…

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If you haven’t had the chance to go make sure you do on your next London trip, schedule in a few hours, as you can see I am a huge fan and heartily recommend it. Which of you have visited the new Foyles store and what have you made of it? Has it affected your bank balance as it did mine recently? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

15 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love

15 responses to “Bookshops I Love; Foyles, Charing Cross Road

  1. Agreed, on all counts! I love it there, but can’t go too often or I’ll be broke.
    The other fantastic thing about Foyles Charing Cross is their support of literary magazines – and indie magazines in general. They have shelves and shelves dedicated to them and it’s rare to find a bookshop where you can snoop through the quarterlies like that.
    Yep, I signed up for a Foyles card. Going to need it!

  2. I remember I fell in love with Foyles on my first visit to England when I was about 8-9 years old. It was of course in the higgledy-piggledy old building then, but such a treasure trove. I could have stayed there forever, but my mother wanted to visit the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tower of London… and all that.

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings

    I love Foyles to bits, and always have. I started visiting in the early 1980s when it was still in an archaic state and it was almost impossible to find the book you wanted and then pay for it. I’ve always visited over the years whenever I’m in London, and I confess I was quite emotional about the move from the old place. But the new shop is quite beautiful, and you’re right about the fact it doesn’t feel like a chain. It still has the history, the memories of the time when Charing Cross Road was full of book shops (which I can remember)…. Lovely post Simon!

  4. Beth

    I live in America, unfortunately! I just had to pick my jaw off the floor. You’re so lucky and I’m so jelly!

  5. I went in last weekend, I LOVED it. I only had an hour but could have spent a whole day there. Looking forward to going again next time I get to London.

  6. Ann

    Our town does not have anything like the book store you featured. Beautiful! I live in U.S. also. I just found out my favorite used bookstore -which is like going on a treasure hunt – has been sold to a new owner and will be changed on January 5th, 2015. I’m so bummed out about it that I can’t even begin to tell you how much. I will miss the original proprietor Maxey also.

  7. My first visit there since the move was today – it won’t be my last. Great selection of books but I think if I had my dream shop I would go with a more cosy rather than clinical look.

  8. Carrie Mercer

    Oh, oh, my. I’m tearing up just looking at the photos. I want to live there as well. I am so envious and heartbroken that we don’t have shops like this in Minnesota, which is actually a very bookish place. Even in my previous life as a bookstore clerk at several different shops in different states, I never saw anything this glorious. I feel a pilgrimage coming on. Thanks for the beautiful torture.

  9. adventuresofcoops

    Reblogged this on Books Ahoy.

  10. The new store looks marvellous. As London is now the place I used to work in I’m unlikely to visit it but it looks a booklover’s dream.
    I used to work in project management , amongst other things, and that video is amazing!

  11. Oh I bet it smells AMAZING. Tight time of the year for me to be deliberately stepping into bookshops though. If I do any online book shopping I always shop with Foyles rather than the evil river🙂 Love em.

  12. Man, I wish we had bookstores in this area like the ones you’ve featured on the blog over the years. We have one bookstore…Barnes & Noble. Booooring. And even that bookstore is more like a toy store that happens to carry books. Blerg.

    This bookstore is gorgeous.

  13. While I generally prefer small bookshops to large ones, this looks fantastic. It might even get me to consider a trip to London to see it.

  14. I love the new Foyles, there is a beautiful copy of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End in there that I spent half an hour staring at on my last visit. I’m not usually one for huge book shops, they can seem impersonal, but this is beautiful.

  15. Pingback: London Diary #2 – Foyles Fills Me With Excitement | Savidge Reads

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