It has been two months since I posted my last A Tour of London Bookshops post, when I visited Daunt Books, Marylebone. Oops! But have no fear because over the next two weeks I will be writing about three bookshops I visited in Hampstead and a little bit about literary monuments in the surrounding area. I’m not too familiar with Hampstead. I’ve of course heard of Hampstead Heath, but all I know is that I cannot possibly afford to live there on my own! Fortunately, I have a friend who lives there with flatmates and so I put it upon her to give me a tour of Hampstead bookshops. First up, we have West End Lane Books.
West End Lane Books is a much loved bookshop within the Hampstead community. As soon as you walk in, there’s a splash of colour from faceout books, including new releases and staff recommendations. It’s clearly effective as my friend found a birthday gift for her Dad here!
West End Lane’s bookshelves are beautifully similar to Daunt Books’. If I were lucky enough to have a personal library, I’d have white bookshelves, but in a large room, darker bookshelves look wonderful – and inviting!
Here’s the view of the bookshop as you walk through the door. As well as books, postcards, gift tags and greetings cards are also scattered around the shop. West End Lane rightly recognise that books are often purchased as gifts – especially in wealthy communities – as well as for personal enjoyment. Also take note of the brilliant Children’s Books banner in the children’s section, but more about that later!
And here’s the view from the back of the shop. West End Lane hosts several author events throughout the month, which you can find out more about on their website.
I particularly enjoyed browsing the travel island (I have made this term up, but I think it’s appropriate!). North America, as I’ve mentioned briefly on Pretty Books before, is at the top of my hypothetical travel list.
I also really liked these tiny bookshelves at the front of the shop, home to a selection of teeny books. I’m not going to lie, I also wanted to test out the DSLR’s ‘blurred background’ option. It was my first time using one and I don’t think I took advantage of it as much as I could have, but hopefully I’ve still given you a helpful overview of the shop!
At the back of the shop, they have a selection of what I like to call pretty books, like the Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection. It’s hidden away in a little nook among some non-fiction titles. They also had a selection of these Penguin Classics, which I was glad to see get some shelf space as they usually are not seen around as much as the clothbound classics.
I think it’s become tradition in my A Tour of London Bookshops posts to mention the children’s section and West End Lane Books has a particularly impressive one, with a very large selection of picture books to young adult. I had a chat with the booksellers before leaving (to explain why I was taking so many photos!) and they mentioned that the children’s section is a extremely important part of the bookstore for them, and it’s easy to see that.
On Mondays and Thursdays, the Children’s Buyer hosts story time sessions for young children. Check out these cute little stools! I wasn’t going to attempt to sit on them, but if I were six again I would have wanted to take them home with me…
Say goodbye to Tedgar Allan Poe!
West End Lane has existed for nearly 20 years and it’s clearly very much a community bookshop where everything on display is specifically for people in the area. It highlights just how important the shop is for Hampstead residents, as they do not just come to purchase books for their own enjoyment, but is a source of gifts for friends and family, a place to bring their children to have fun, and a place to hear a little more from favourite authors.