London is one of the top cities of literature in Europe. Some of the best literature the world has ever seen has either come from London-based and London-born authors, or is set in and around the city. There must be something about the drizzly weather, its heritage sites, and the historic River Thames that inspires the citizens.
With that in mind, the city is filled with all things literary, and to visit London without dipping your toes into this side of the cultural scene would be a crime. Whether it’s the history of famous authors that interests you, the outstanding selection of libraries and bookshops, or the exciting program of events, there is something for all tastes.
Getting to Know the Authors
When most of us think of literature in London, the first thing that comes to mind is William Shakespeare, but there is a lot more to literary London than the man himself; a visit to the Globe Theatre is an absolute must. To reacquaint yourself with Charles Dickens – one of the great writers of Victorian London – take a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum. Or perhaps stop by Virginia Woolf’s childhood home in Kensington to remember the author of the likes of Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, and Orlando.
While London literature is largely associated with the Victorian era, there are also many budding contemporary authors who are familiar with the city. Authors such as Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith have lived or still live in the city and traces of them can be found in local bookshops and at events. For Sherlock Holmes fans, of which there are many, there is a museum set in the fictitious apartment of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson on Baker Street.
In recent years, one woman in particular has captured the imagination of millions across the world about the magical adventures of Harry Potter, and ever since, people have been inclined to run into a wall at Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross Station. For more ideas on all things Harry Potter, see here.
With all of this rich literary history, there is no doubt that the city provides a suitable events program. Most bookshops host events such as readings, workshops and talks, but some that are best-known for this are Libreria in Shoreditch, Housmans in King’s Cross, Waterstones in Piccadilly, and the London Review Bookshop. For those interested in theater, venues not to miss out on are the Old Vic Theatre, Wyndham’s Theatre, Playhouse Theatre, and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
While there is no shortage of things to do for book-lovers, there is always the freedom of setting up your own event. Important steps to start off are as follows:
- Find a team: Unless you’re interested in a one-man-show, form a group of like-minded people at your favorite reading night.
- Plan: Doing an idea that’s been done before is not the best plan of action. Try starting something new!
- Create a website: First find your webspace with a company such as this one and then make sure all important information is there.
- Start: Get going on your first event and enjoy it!
Libraries & Bookshops
Being a city steeped in history, it does of course offer a great selection of libraries, both old and new. One of the favorites is the Maughan Library at King’s College London that features one of the most beautiful reading rooms around. The University of London’s Senate House Library is known for its appearance in Batman Begins and has the best selection of enormous leather chairs and sofas! Other notable libraries are the Victoria & Albert, The SOAS Library, and UCL’s Main Library.
One of the things London is most certainly not lacking is a good bookshop. Daunt Books is one of the most beautiful with an Edwardian interior and a gorgeous selection of travel books. The London Review Bookshop is possibly the one with the best selection and is ideally located in Bloomsbury. Probably one of the best-known independent British bookshops is Foyles. The city even boasts a bookshop on Regent’s Canal called Word on the Water that is not to be missed. And finally, Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop is the stuff that dreams are made of – with its broad assortment and attractive décor, it remains one of the city’s favorites.