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1. Penguin celebrates Independent's Day!

Who doesn't love moseying around bookshops? Perusing shelves packed with books, resting your weary limbs in the nearest and squishiest armchair, then leaving laden down with beautiful tomes to pore over when you get home. We're getting misty eyed at the thought of it.

Anyway, if you didn't know, today is July 4th. To many, it's Independence Day. To us, it's INDEPENDENT'S DAY (admire the subtlety of what we've done there folks. To read more about Independent Booksellers Week, head here.) We've taken a moment to praise the independent bookshop, and below are three examples of our favourites.

If you have a suggestion or would like to contribute to the blog, please tweet us or comment below. Tell us about your favourites, we want to hear about bookshops in farflung places, tiny bookshops that few people know about, or simply a bookshop you love to while away the hours in, wherever it may be. 

 

The Slightly Foxed Bookshop

123 Gloucester Road, London, SW7 4TE

020 7370 3503 | www.foxedbooks.com | @FoxedQuarterly

Slightlyfoxed1

After walking down Gloucester Road, I can’t imagine a sight more welcome than the dusty blue of the Slightly Foxed awning. If Gloucester Road is a cultural desert (and it is), then the Slightly Foxed Bookshop is an oasis.

Slightly Foxed published the first issue of their quarterly literary magazine in 2003, and in 2009 they took over the Gloucester Road bookshop. It’s an extension of the sensibilities of the magazine – they stock an eclectic selection of new releases, and all manner of second hand books. It feels as though they might operate nightclub style one in, one out policy – there aren’t shelves full of the latest bestsellers, but there’s one each of the new Pulp the Classics editions, and they sit in the window above Caitlin Moran, a James Bond novel, and Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines. Sure, it’s a motley crew, but one that completely makes sense. It reads like the rest of the collection; intelligent, witty, and clearly curated by people who love the books they stock. There’s a shelf full of Slightly Foxed hardbacks – searingly bright wibbalin encases some great writing. And with only 2000 of each title printed, they’re collectable as well as covetable.

Slightlyfoxed2

And downstairs! Oh, downstairs. If you’re a self-indulgent Penguin employee (and I definitely am) it’s well worth sitting at the bottom of the steps and looking through all the Penguin Paperbacks. Beyond that – as if you could need more – there are shelves and shelves of second hand and antique books – art books, biographies, travel and food writing. It’s all there, and it’s an abundance of quality and quantity.

I spent about half an hour at Slightly Foxed, just browsing. It was only when I left that I realised that the two people who worked there hadn’t interrupted once – I don’t think they cared at all whether we bought anything; they were just pleased to see people paying their books so much attention.

Slightly Foxed pitch their magazine as ‘the real reader’s quarterly’. The Slightly Foxed Bookshop is the real reader’s bookshop.

By Kirsty Taylor, Acting Assistant Editor | @EditorialGirls

 

Book & Kitchen

31 All Saints Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 1HE

07508 030 742 | http://bookandkitchen.com/ | @BookandKitchen

I only recently discovered Book & Kitchen whilst wandering around the streets just off Portobello Road one weekend. I have just moved into a new flat there and was trying to scope out the charms of the local area – not exactly challenging in Notting Hill, you’ll agree (yep, I’m already a smug West Londoner).

The store has a strange but balanced composite of aesthetics; bright contemporary colours and modishly upholstered armchairs share space with a fully functioning vintage typewriter and record player whose needle wobbles and crackles over an old vinyl.

Bookandkitchen1

The spirit and energy is immediately evident, not only from the décor, but the staff as well. Book & Kitchen’s owner and front of house, Muna Khogali, is super friendly and passionate about what she’s doing and could no doubt hand sell every book in the store with her enthusiasm. Plus she’ll also make you a coffee and a slice of cake downstairs! When was the last time that happened when you were browsing in [name redacted for legal reasons]. That’s the ‘kitchen’ bit in the name by the way, just in case, you know, you were thinking they also sold splash backs and graphite worktops.

What I like most is that the books are allowed to showcase themselves. There are no shouty sales promotions or merchandising that makes you immediately aware of the publishers (yes, I fully realise the hypocrisy here). It is assumed that you know what you are looking for, and if not, you are given as much time as you need to discover something new. 31 All Saints Rd, W11. Be about it.

By Joe Yule, Marketing Executive | @Joe_Christmas

 

Pages of Hackney

70 Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, London E5 0RN

020 8525 1452 | http://pagesofhackney.co.uk/ | @pagesofhackney

A little like Joe (see above), when I first moved to the part of London I now call home, I spent (and still spend) an inordinate amount of time wandering about the place, often lost. It was on one of these adventures that I stumbled across Pages of Hackney. Attractive exterior: check. Local notices in the window: check. Wonderful assortment of books, old and new, plus small dog: check. It is a proper book shop.

Pages front

If, like me, you're interested in London's history, especially the local stuff, there is so much to sink your teeth into. The history books are right in front of you when you go in, and you can find pretty much everything there. I recently bought a great little book on Blake's London by Iain Sinclair, and a copy of Craig Taylor's brilliant Londoners for a friend. There are lots of more obscure titles too, but I won't bore you with them all, you'll have to go and check the selection out yourself.

Finally, get thee to the basement (a treasure trove of vast proportions) and hats off if you can resist the lure of classic Penguin books and vintage Marvel comics. They run great events in there too. Before I descend into even more hyperbole, here's why Pages gets my vote:

1. It smells right. New and old book smell = nice.

2. It's quiet, calming and no-one bothers you if you just want to get your head down and browse (but people are friendly and suitably informed if you fancy a chat).

3. Did I mention Merlin the dog?

Merlin14

By Natalie Williams, Digital Marketing Executive | @natalie_rw

It would be remiss to talk about independent bookshops without mentioning the Paris institution that is Shakespeare and Company. Here's a post on our On the Strand blog from last year that you may find interesting.

Finally, for our London followers, here's a handy map to the great and good of London's independent bookstores. Enjoy, and happy Independents Day! #independentsday

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2. pub guy does the Beatles

Anthony Pomes of Square One Publishing is on the board of the Yoko approved Lennon Center on L.I., but even better, he plays and signs Lennon for the band. See the NYT article.

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3. Marian v VV

Marian v VV Some people make me sick. Is it not enough to be good at one thing without insisting on being good at lots of other things at the same time? While I can think of no particular talents I possess - other than being semi-good at some things - there are some people who have too many and should share them around. VV Brown is one of those people. Team marketing went on a trip to see her on Wednesday night. (I wonder if anyone else would be sad enough to refer to going to a gig as ‘going on a trip’, as if we took a packed lunch with us and went on a minibus. That pretty much epitomises how we felt, though, as the music scene is possibly a little out of our comfort zone – or what we really mean is that people who work in the music industry wear better clothes than we do). The reason we ended up on our rather-more-exciting-than-a-school-outing gig on Wednesday is because VV has recorded a single that was released at the same time as Marian Keyes’ This Charming Man.

It’s funny how some things come full circle. When Marian finished her masterpiece, This Charming Man, she asked Morrissey if she could use the title. When VV Brown and Marian met through the charity Women’s Aid, VV read the book and was inspired to do a cover of the original Smith’s song. Well this all worked out rather marvellously for us, because after getting together with Island Records, we managed to pull off a single to tie in to the release of the book. Which implies that our (Penguin marketing’s) musical talents went into mixing the track. They did not. This is because we are A) talentless in that area and B) (this comes back to my earlier point) VV is very talented in this area. As a writer for bands such as Girls Aloud and the Sugababes, and the artist on everyone’s lips this year in her own right, and someone who has an amazing voice and plays lots of instruments and is really stylish and is stunning and is really nice, she turned the track into something fresh and contemporary. Being a bit of a Smiths fan myself, I could have been disappointed. But I can honestly say I thought it was brilliant. Even Island Records referred to it as ‘the bomb’. (I since challenged my marketing director to use that phrase in a publishing meeting. ‘Oh yes, that new Anita Brookner is the bomb, isn’t it?’)

We first heard the song live when Marian and VV did a bookshop event together at Borders. Marian read from the book and entertained the crowd in the way that only Marian can and VV then sang. I decided that if you sounded good in a bookshop you were probably likely to sound good at a proper gig, so was looking forward to seeing VV in her more usual surroundings on Wednesday night (Shepherds Bush Hall). We were not disappointed. You could have seen for yourself here if I wasn’t such an appalling photographer. This was due to being distracted by the fact that at one point Gary Barlow was standing in front of me. I think I may have bored holes into the back of his head from staring.

The collaboration has been a brilliant experience, and one that is making us look at what we can learn from the music industry and how it has adapted to a changing market. Bringing music and books together is not a new idea, but for me it was rewarding to see two women, seemingly very different, come together over a shared sentiment and a love of each other’s work. And one awfully charming man.

If you have itunes can download the track here – 10p of each download goes to Women’s Aid.

Jennifer Doyle
Marketing Executive

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Remember that by posting a comment you are agreeing to the website Terms of Use. If you consider any content on this site to be inappropriate, please report it to Penguin Books by emailing [email protected]

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4. asylum

The only bright spot in Kid Rock's derivative music video is the brief flashing of the Elektra/Asylum label of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London LP, which is sampled on the Kid's hit.

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5. Spinal Tap meets Queen

From a colleague comes a story about Spinal Tap in a concert in the UK, with Christopher Guest going into a soaring solo. The crowd went nuts, and all the more so when Brian May of Queen came on stage, being the one who had actually played the solo! And this news via Shelf Awareness: Book Soup,featured an appearance by Queen guitarist Brian May, who instead of signing CDs or guitars, signed copies of Bang! The Complete History of the Universe (Johns Hopkins , $29.95, 9780801889851), which he co-wrote with astronomer Patrick Moore and astrophysicist Chris Lintott. Proud owner of Ph.D. in astrophysics, May met perhaps more Queen than Universe fans, although several apparently came in from far ends of the country, if not universe.

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6. cover me

2 wonderful cover versions of 2 of my favorite all-time songs playing on XM of late: Jill Sobule covering Laura Nyro's Stoned Soul Picnic and Thomas Dolby (!) covering Dan Hicks' incredible I Scare Myself. 2 of the most beautiful, bittersweet, transportive songs of all time. At least I think so.

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7. Aztec on XM

From Rex Fowler of Aztec Two Step: “We had a blast taping the Loft Session at the XM:50 studios in D.C.in December.  Our Loft Session will air the week of March 10: Monday at 12pm and 9pm, Thursday at 3pm and 9pm, Friday at 4am, and Saturday at 7pm, all times Eastern.  Thank you to our friends at XM:50: Pete Fornatale, Jerry Rubino, Mike Marrone, and their wonderful  engineer “Q.” 

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8. neat book from Rodale 'bout Si & Garf

Pete Fornatale's Bookends is a delight. Lots of early stories, including the one about how their career almost didn't happen. A producer went in and added drums and bass to Sounds of Silence while Paul was off in London singing on streetcorners and Art was back in college. Rereleased w/o their knowledge it then became a hit.

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9. excitable boy

Catch Carl Hiassen's wonderful intro to Crystal Zevon's compilation of voices on Warren. This is a wild book; it's Edie-like in the array of voices, from Jackson Browne to Bruce Springsteen, and it's warts and all. Hit the BrowseInside button.

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10. Stills the one

Nice to play an old album and be surprised. Forgot that Stephen Stills comes in on Loggins & Messina's Golden Ribbon.

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11. at the movies

Thumbs down on The Fountain...what a mess. But big thumbs up, as Roger would say, on Ratatouille and VERY enthusiastic thumbs up for Once, the love story musical set in Dublin. Charming, smart, and a little heartbreaking in the best possible way.

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12. no ordinary Joe

Had the occassion to play an LP this weekend that included Joe South's Games People Play, one of my favorite songs of years past. I figured it was a great one-hit wonder, til I read more about him on Wikipedia. Wow...an amazing musical life, esp. playing the guitar parts on Chain of Fools and Sounds of Silence!

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13. baby Driver

XM has been playing some cuts from Minnie Driver's new album. Nice!!!

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14. cover

My favorite covers of late are the Indigo Girls doing Uncle John's Band and Aimee Mann and hubby doing Two of Us.

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15. odd couple!

Robert Plant and Alison Krause have done an album together!!!

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16. Chuck Prophet, musician and author

Do NOT miss Chuck on tour this fall, and Chronicle has signed him for a book!

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17. cool Harper children's book site

Check this out...fun story/games/book news.

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18. Chuck Prophet on NPR this Sunday!!!

Tune in to NPR's Weekend Edition with Liane Hansen this Sunday, December 2!!!!

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19. life after rock and roll

A friend of mine says that Orleans' former member John Hall (not of Hall & Oates) is now a Congressman, and the NYT reports that Robert Leonard, formerly of Sha Na Na, is now a linguist detective AND the basis for a character in the most recent Kathy Reichs' novel!

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20. peaceful music

My favorite Xmas album is by, believe it or not, Jorma Kakounen. Yes, formerly of Hot Tuna. BUT, my favorite general listening now is the original Jonathan Edwards album, with Sunshine, Athens County, Shanty and the beautiful Sometimes in the Morning. He is still out performing and gives a wonderful, happy show! Here's his 2008 schedule so far.

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21. don't miss Chuck on TV!!!!!!!!!!

Chuck Prophet, the only new musician of the last 10 years who I have totally enjoyed and followed, was on NPR a few weeks back...and now he's on Letterman this coming Wed. eve, Jan. 9!!  Chuck has a unique voice, wonderful lyrics, a sense of humor...and man can he play guitar. Try to catch him live, too. (And he has a book coming from Chronicle, last I heard.)

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22. the clip of Chuck on Letterman!

Not my favorite song from Soap and Water but still pretty great!

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23. feel good story of the day

From Shelf Awareness: The resurgence of downtown Haverhill, Mass., has been missing one key ingredient--a bookshop--but soon that void will be filled by an enterprising group of local high school students. According to the Eagle-Tribune, students in Haverhill High's Learning for Life program will open the Book Cellar, a new and used bookstore.

"This city needs a bookstore," said sophomore William Pina. "I think our store will be a great opportunity for kids to learn about selling books."

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24. Subdudes adding more dates!! don't miss 'em

Don't miss 'em!!!! Best concert you'll ever see!!!

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25. G. Love & Ozomatli on tour!

Do NOT miss G. Love (Philly white soul guy) and the amazing Ozomatli (Santana meets Little Feat) on tour this summer!!

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