Today I’d like to tell you about an inevitable bookshop of London. Actually, “bookstore” would be a much more appropriate word, as this bookshop is really huge. I am talking about Foyles. For my first article of my series about Londonian bookshops, I would have liked to tell you about a small and cute independent bookshop nobody has heard about, but I chose to tell you about what is my favourite bookshop in London so far, the one I always go back to, the one in which I can spend a whole afternoon without getting bored. I wish it was more original but it is Foyles.
Technically, Foyles in an independent bookstore. But Foyles has 5 stores in London and one in Bristol, and a new Foyles bookstore is going to open in Birmingham this month. So even if this is not Waterstones, it is slowly turning into a bookstore chain — which remains independent because still owned by the Foyles family. Are you still following? That was to give you some background information before telling you what I like about this bookstore, so that you can picture it and its atmosphere. To summarize, Foyles is not the little independent bookshop around your corner, but it is still an independent company that has provided quality books since its creation in 1903 (!) and I hope that it will remain this way.
The Charing Cross Road bookstore, which is by far the biggest Foyles bookstore in London, is an amazing 5-storey building that comprises all the departments you may expect to find in a very good bookshop (fiction, children’s and young adult, languages, education, history, science, travel, art, design, economics, geography, cookery etc. etc.) plus an incredible DVDs department and an amazing but always overcrowded café where you can have lunch or have a break for an afternoon tea. Also, I have to mention it, it is the first bookstore I have been to that has lifts — yes, I am talking about proper lifts, not escalators! This gives you an idea of the size of the store. Another information that could give you an even better idea of the bookstore’s scale, and which I found on their website (it has a very complete and interesting page about the bookstore’s history, which you can view here if you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful bookstore) is that the bookstore stocks 200,000 different titles on 6.5km of shelves!
Now, time to tell you why I am absolutely fond of this bookstore. It is so huge that it stocks absolutely all the titles you may be looking for, in any area you are interested in. Whether you are looking for the latest fiction best-seller or for a very confidential novel from an obscure foreign writer, or even a very specialized history book, you will find it without any difficulty, and this is priceless. Then, all these exhibited books mean that Foyles is also a place where you can go to have a look around, without looking for anything specific. There are always books that will attract your attention, and even if this can be really annoying for your wallet (I cannot leave Foyles without having bought at least a book), it is also great, let’s admit it.
The bookstore is also quite beautiful: simple but modern, light, well-tided, with space for people to walk around and look at the books without disturbing one another. I’ll post a few pictures below the article to give you a glimpse. And all its departments are so awesome… One of my favourite is the fiction department, of course, where you can find thousands of old and new novels, from British writers but also from foreign writers from almost all the countries of the world. The language department is also great, mostly because it offers a huge range of francophone books: from mainstream to specialized novels (Patrick Modiano and Françoise Sagan but also Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt and Amélie Nothomb for instance), theatre plays, medieval French literature… This means that I know where to go if I want to take a rest from books in English (which is unlikely to happen) or want to read a French book in its original version (that is most likely!). I am also quite fond of their DVDs department, where you can find movies from various countries for almost nothing (some DVDs are as cheap as £3.00) and most of them are actually very good or classical movies.
If you don’t know Foyles yet, I hope this article will make you want to go there to have a look yourself. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the bookstore…