introduce me to the dark shadowed underbelly of London
January 23, 2009 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Where are the best cheap used book shops and cheap used clothing shops in London?

Heading into London tomorrow. Would like to find cheap used books, especially books on art, radical politics, sociology, etc. Also looking for funky used clothes shops and/or charity shops. I've got holes in my boots so wouldn't mind finding some new ones, or used, new-to-me ones. Help me to avoid Starbucks, chain stores, and all the other crap that is ruining London. Anything weird, underground, not advertised, and cheap would be of interest to me.
posted by crazylegs to Travel & Transportation around London, England (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Waterstone's on Gower Street has a superb secondhand department that covers fiction and all academic subjects (it serves UCL and the University of London just next door.) It isn't at all counter-cultural but it is very extensive and pretty cheap and although it is part of a chain it still retains some unique character. Otherwise Charing Cross Road is the secondhand book capital of London. There are also numerous remainders shops in the area which are good for picking up cheap art books.
posted by ninebelow at 5:46 AM on January 23, 2009

Sadly, Charing Cross Road isn't what it used to be - rising rents have driven out a number of the specialist and second-hand bookshops, but there are still some hanging on. For cheap books, you may also want to try charity shops, although the specialist places like Oxfam bookshops are often not particularly cheap.

My favourite second-hand/remainder bookshop in London is Judd Books on Marchmont Street, near the Brunswick Centre, which has a fantastic selection of academic remainder titles as well. Skoob Books in the Brunswick Centre is pretty good as well, although it's not the cheapest around. The Gloucester Road bookshop, down the road from the tube, is another one I frequent.

The Fantasy Centre on Holloway Road is Europe's biggest SF/Fantasy bookshop, and had lots of cheap paperbacks the last time I was there.
posted by Jakob at 6:33 AM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop in Bloomsbury, has a small but good section of second-hand books on radical politics and related subjects. Handy for Charing Cross Rd if you're going that way and an interesting place in itself.

Clothes-wise, there are lots of 'vintage' clothes shops dotted around town, but second hand clothes shops that's aren't vintage don't really exist outside of charity shops. If you *are* after vintage or similar, I like Beyond Retro on Cheshire St near Covent Garden (cheapish but not fabulously so, this is London after all).

And if you are going up to Holloway Rd for The Fantasy Centre you should pop into the shop at at 162 Holloway Rd (I forget its name...actually, not sure I ever knew it) which has all kinds of retro and vintage second hand clothing for often not much at all.
posted by Acarpous at 7:02 AM on January 23, 2009

Seconding Beyond Retro. There are two branches. The one on Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane, is bigger but the Soho branch on Great Marlborough Street is also good.

This article from Time Out is a pretty good rundown of vintage clothing shops in London.
posted by little apollo at 7:46 AM on January 23, 2009

Good suggestions above. I think it's worth pointing out how close to each other a lot of these places are. For example, from the Waterstone's on Gower Street it'll take about 3 minutes to Judd Books, then Skoob Books is just round the corner. Leaving there, it's about 5 minutes to Bookmarks (across the road from which is another good second-hand bookshop), which as Acarpous says is handy for Charing Cross Road... It all makes for a very convenient walking route.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:06 AM on January 23, 2009

I feel odd saying this because I live right in the area where all the recommendations above are but they have already covered my local haunts.

Anyways, for vintage/used clothes you also want to try Camden Town, especially the Stables Market.
posted by vacapinta at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2009

I don't know if this thread is still active but try the Oxfam bookshop on Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QA. It's pretty big and has a good selection. Also try the Oxfam bookshop at 1, The Green, Ealing W5 5DA. I used to go there a few years back and they seemed to specialise in science-fiction and fantasy. But I don't know what they're like now.

Also try the Southbank book fair underneath Waterloo Bridge - cash only, so come forearmed. Hampstead Community Centre on Hampstead High Street has a second hand book sale on Saturday mornings - or used to a couple of years ago; you might want to check up on that as they may have stopped.

Have fun!
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:58 AM on February 16, 2009

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