Libreria

Location: Hanbury Street, Shoreditch, London
Website: libreria.io
Services: Bookseller
What I bought: Nora Ephron – The Last Interview, The Smarts – Saj Jetha, Not Working – Josh Cohen, Loyalties – Delphine de Vigan, Last Ones Left Alive – Sarah Davis-Goff, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

I first read about Libreria three years ago in ELLE magazine which had an accompanying image of the shop’s floor-to-ceiling curved book shelves painted in bright yellow. It looked like such a fun place to go and browse books and I added it to my list of book shops to visit – if you hadn’t already gathered from my numerous entries about them, I have a thing for independent book shops.

For my birthday this year, I was spending the day in London and carved out some designated time for Libreria which was further east than most of my other planned activities. I caught the underground to Liverpool Street, cut through Spitalfields Market and over to Hanbury Street where the book shop is based. Shoreditch is a great area of London for small boutiques, independent sellers, market traders and some brilliant urban artwork.

Independent book stores are often unique, putting their own stamp of personality on the shop floor, and Libreria is no exception. The space has been specially designed by Spanish architects SelgasCano. Not only is it bright and uplifting from the sunflower yellow shelves, there is a large mirror at the back of the shop which reflects the space making it feel much bigger than it is.

The staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, which you would naturally expect, but especially so in Libreria due to the seemingly scattergun ordering of the books. There is, I am sure, a method to the madness or a secret code that only the booksellers are party to. Just when I thought I was getting an inkling of alphabeticalisation or genre trends, the pattern would shift and I was no nearer to finding what I was looking for.

This could be perceived as a negative – you should not walk in to Libreria and expect to quickly find what you’re looking for on your own, but that’s ok because the booksellers know every inch of the place. A customer walked in looking for a Chinese author whose name they couldn’t quite remember – the store manager immediately found two books to show them. I, after much scanning, asked them if they had anything by Nora Ephron, and without checking any inventory system they walked directly to a specific shelf and pulled a book out for me.

I took a positive from what might be viewed as organised chaos on the shelves – it made me look harder, and in more detail, and when I was really looking, I found far many more books that I wanted to read. This is exactly what the owners of Libreria want their customers to do. Having read more about their ethos, they arrange books according to broad themes such as Wanderlust, disenchantment and ‘The City’. The shelves are ordered in a way that promotes new discoveries, interdisciplinary thinking and the sharing and exchanging of ideas.

Case in point, I thought I might buy one or two books and ended up buying six from all different genres, in fiction and non-fiction. I bought books about work, psychology, race relations and politics. I bought post-apocalyptic horror, French translation and interview transcripts. It was the widest range of reading material I had bought in one purchase since studying at university.

To top off my wonderful experience at Libreria, upon learning that it was my birthday and I had made a special trip to them, the store manager gave me 10% discount on my purchases and stamped each of my books. We had a refreshing conversation about how the book shop is currently bucking the trend of struggling independents on the high street, due in part to their well organised PR – they regularly appear in newspapers and magazines promoting boutique places to visit in London which was how I found them, and also in part to the loyalty of their customers – they are in an area which supports and encourages indie ventures.

My advice for visiting Libreria is to go with an open mind and take your time to really appreciate the effort that has been put in to curating the shelves. You will undoubtedly find something you weren’t looking for and at the very least leave feeling inspired, if not with a paper bag full of books.

You can follow Libreria on Twitter (@LibreriaLondon) and Instagram (librerialondon) listen to their podcast or better still, visit them at 65 Hanbury Street, E1 5JP

I am working my way through each of my purchases and you can read my thoughts about some of them here:

Nora Ephron – The Last Interview
Loyalties – Delphine de Vigan
Last Ones Left Alive – Sarah Davis-Goff