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Lauren LaTulip on why you should take to the streets with Bluestocking Books

Lauren LaTulip loves books and readers enough to have built three careers around them: once at The New York Public Library, then as a librarian in London, and now designing and guiding tours taking book lovers to the most unique bookshops in the city, with Bluestocking Books London bookshop tours. Here, Lauren tells us about her enchanting work. For the record, she wears blue tights when guiding tours.

The original Bluestockings, back in Georgian England, ran literary salons and encouraged other women to write and publish. They were considered outrageous in a time when women were rarely educated or allowed a public voice. ‘Bluestocking’ is still used as a derisive term for women who enjoy reading, writing and education. As a classically trained librarian with a talent for free speech and open conversation, I aim to reclaim the term.

If you attend book themed parties, ogle Instagram “shelfies” or feel that a good book in the hand might be worth two on the Kindle, you’re not alone. Over the next five years, UK sales of print books are forecast to grow by 25 percent to reach £2.1 billion, while e-books will see only small increases to reach £383 million. From freshly illustrated editions of classics to experimental artist’s books and treasure troves of second-hand, there’s never been a better time to go book stalking.

 


Bluestocking Books London bookshop tours mix walking, talking about books and browsing bookshops. Each tour is themed and has a curated itinerary, including ‘new’ bookshops, second-hand and antiquarian bookshops and shops that publish their own imprint. A matchmaker between readers and bookshops, I talk about the history of the shops, the booksellers and their most unusual books; then we browse. The tours also fill in local history, so whether you’re a native or just moved to London you’ll be a bit of an expert by the end.  

Our selection of bookshops are unique and often beautiful or quirky. Some have histories going back a hundred years. The shops I’ve chosen for the tours are, against stereotype perhaps, incredibly welcoming. I also have the greatest respect for their book selections and bookseller recommendations. Once you’ve been through the doors of these shops and have a chance to browse I am sure you’ll return again. Books are good drugs.

Bluestocking Books offers three themes at the moment, plus bespoke tours for groups. We do not accept fees from the bookshops included – this is a highly opinionated business. Travel, Art and Broadway Market tours are under development for January.
 
The Magic, Medicine and Esoterica tour takes us from Charing Cross to Bloomsbury, and spends a time in the Victorian era, also touching on Ancient Greece and Egypt. We are all fascinated by the unknown - this walk takes you in to atmospheric bookshops and a fascinating second-hand store to explore for yourself. A great follow up for anyone visiting the History of Magic exhibition now on at the British Library.

Shoreditch Creative is a wander from Shoreditch to Brick Lane, visiting art bookshops and specialised shops that reflect their owners’ aesthetics. Literary street art is a side interest, so we’re always on the lookout while walking. Right now you can find Tintin and Snowy creating a bit of street art themselves on Hanbury Street (by artist Muretz) .



The tour I’d like more people to take a chance on is Comics and Illustrated Books. Graphic novels and small press illustrated books are exciting, often accessible and affordable (a hand-drawn book for £1.50!). Comics fans are sure to discover something new; the tour is also a great starting point to learn about the format.

Without tour spoilers, here are a few literary boltholes in London:

Going out of your mind on Oxford Street before Christmas?
Walk 10 minutes north past John Nash’s calming All Souls Church to RIBA Bookshop. The Royal Institute of British Architects is housed in Art Deco 66 Portland Place. Solid bronze front doors weigh one and a half tons each, separating you from the world. Zip through your shopping in the well-stocked bookshop - architecture, travel, interiors, design - then tour the building, visit a free exhibition or pop into the café bar. A super find that you can share with family and friends (or not).

Love the Brick Lane buzz but need a little headspace?
Newest bookshop on the block, Caravansérail is half French, half British and stocked with care. Just off Brick Lane on Cheshire Street, Caravansérail offers a light-filled seating area in the front, then a lovely small collection of books in English and French. Co-owner Laura Cleary reads in both languages, so a great conversation on translations and literature can be had. Coffee is on offer, and once you stop in you may find it hard to leave.

Travelling this way?

Finsbury Park: New Beacon Books has been in the neighbourhood since 1966. Come along to one of their author talks and browse the collection of African and Caribbean literature.

Earl’s Court: The Mosaic Rooms bookshop specialises in contemporary culture from the Arab world and the gallery showcases site specific installations. Tiny, but so worth visiting.

Kensington: The new Design Museum on Kensington High Street has a wall of tempting art books by publisher Phaidon in the shop. Stop in the Sackler Library and Archive upstairs -  a secret hideaway for reading and writing open to the public.

Booking for tours is at Bluestocking Books or contact lauren@llatulip.com for enquiries. @bluestockingldn