It’s easy to feel literary wandering around Bloomsbury, this is the area rooted in Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and their literary group actually named Bloomsbury. If that isn’t enough, the British Museum and the University of London anchor the intellectual life. Little bookstores pop up in unexpected places (see previous reviews London Review Bookshop and Bookmarks), two caught my attention: Gosh! and Oxfam Bloomsbury Bookshop.
I’m not a comic book reader and don’t think I’ll ever evolve into a fan of graphic novels, but I know a good niche bookstore when I see one. Gosh! was packed with people of all ages pouring over everything from mangas to graphic novels to collectible comic books. The store opens into a room dedicated to current graphic novels, I was tempted by the classics in graphic novel form, but then wondered if reading one would be akin to reading the classics in the ‘young readers’ version, essentially killing the story. Gosh! then meanders back into multi-story smaller rooms. The collectible section was impressive, well organized and easy for find all those ancient Peanuts and Batman comic books. If you love graphic novels, manga or comic books, this is your mecca. My favorite aspect was the sign out front, simply the Batman insigna. After seeing hundreds of old pub signs with illustrations from the days when people couldn’t read, I enjoyed this updated version.
Oxfam Bloomsbury Bookshop
All over England I noticed charity stores, in one city in Wales I counted three charity stores on one block. However, I never saw huge block buildings dedicated to public storage. I wonder if the two observations are linked. In Bloomsbury, Oxfam opened a version of charity store, but dedicated solely to books. Personally, I’ve only visited one such store in the US, Housing Works in NYC which gives all of its proceeds to AIDS work. I would love to find more, not just sections of Goodwill for bookshelves, but entire used bookstores for charity. Anyway, off my soap box, the Oxfam store had a wonderful selection of books. My favorite was a section dedicated to the commuter, books or literary magazines that could be read in sections during a single commute. There was a whole shelf dedicated to used Granta magazines at a fraction of the cost. In addition to books the store offers notes/stationary/writing supplies produced by Oxfam. What better way to buy a used book than to support a charity that fights poverty and injustice?
39 Great Russell St.
London WC1B 3NZ
12 Bloomsbury St.
London WC1B 3QA