I mentioned in a post a while back that I went on a bookshop pilgrimage to London last year. Part of this trip took me into the depths of East London, past Brick Lane and its vintage clothes shops, to Hanbury Street. On this slightly shabby looking side street, you’ll find Libreria Bookshop. It’s part of the Second Home family (a hip co-working space in London) and let’s be straight here, it looks as cool as you’d expect from East London. But it also has a warm, golden glow that invites you in to take a further look.
(I don’t think they like you to use your phones in there as a rule, however, I did sneak a photo. Team Libreria, if you’re reading this: I’m sorry, it was for the greater good.)
Stepping inside, you’re enveloped in the soft ambience of yellow shelves, clever lighting and a seemingly infinite amount of books in a relatively small space. The bookshop has been very cleverly designed. The walls ripple towards a mirror at the back of the shop, reflecting the piles of books that lay on the table in the centre and of course the bookworms quietly perusing the shelves. Part of the ethos and design of Libreria is to cultivate creativity and allow you to discover new books and ideas.
To this end, you won’t books grouped in the standard fashion – no A-Z fiction, non-fiction, classics here. (All the bookshop purists just spat out their tea in shock.) Instead, the books are curated into categories such as ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Enchantment for Disenchanted’ and ‘The City’, expertly blending different styles and genres. This makes for a totally unique book browsing experience. How many times have you instinctively headed to the same part of the bookshop? Never branching into the sections that you claim you don’t like without actually ever reading them? I’ve definitely been guilty of that. Libreria removes those barriers, allowing you to roam freely amongst the books in the wild. Like it was intended.
Of course, I was going to buy something (duh) and this style of browsing led me to a book I hadn’t heard of before. I bought The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon which is a novel about a Korean American woman who becomes involved in terrorist acts led by a cult tied to North Korea whilst in university. I was drawn by the eye-catching cover and I wonder if in a quote-unquote normal bookshop I would have noticed this, buried in an alphabetized shelf.
A nice touch when I took my book to the counter to pay was a free bookmark and the option to have my book stamped with the Libreria logo. All those library vibes but I get to keep the book!
If you check out their website, you will see all of the other stuff Libreria has to offer. For those lucky enough to live close by they run loads of interesting looking events under their Cultural Programme. For those of us further afield, you can also check out their podcast or subscription service.
Now I’ve been once, I’ll definitely be back next time in London to discover something new.