Where new writing finds its voice
My Favourite Bookshop


Jenny Kingsley


The temptress is Bookthrift, an oasis in the cultured core of South Kensington where thousands of students, tourists, the still-employed and residents roam, many of whom can’t resist a peek in the shop and a bargain at the till. It’s sometimes hard to see the ever-changing display of books in the window because it is blocked by book-thirsty folk waiting for friends or a bus.

The name of the shop may not be elegant or literary but what lies beneath the title’s surface is quite splendid. It would be difficult to discover elsewhere such a fine and varied collection of art books  – including photography and architecture – at incredibly low prices tabled and shelved near so many other favourably priced examples of the usual bookshop genre – fiction, travel writing and guides, biography, history, reference, interiors, cookery, health and children’s books. Forget the cappuccino and spend the pennies on a book that will really stimulate the grey matter, rather than just for a few brief buzzy moments.

The manager sources the shop’s books three times a year at book fairs of British and American publishers’ remainders. Incidentally, there are two other branches of Bookthrift, in Southwold and Ashbourne, though I cannot personally vouch for the richness of the stock or the charm of the staff.

In South Kensington there are usually nine or so staff members (two full-time) and they are all astoundingly friendly and helpful. When they are not selling and reading books, most are pursuing other ventures – acting, film-making, writing, studying, teaching, massaging, filming. They have great stories to tell.

For me Bookthrift poses a serious problem because it is within a few seconds’ walk of our house. I am the paper clip; it is the magnet; say no more. I excuse myself for the too frequent purchase: bookshops, like libraries, are always in danger of performing a vanishing act. So if you indulge yourself in Bookthrift, I will compensate you for the loss of the herbal tea. Just ring the bell.


22 Thurloe Street
London SW7 2SS
T 020 7589 2916

10 – 8 Monday – Friday
11 – 7 Saturday
  2 – 6 Sunday


If you have a bookshop you’d like to recommend to Pen Pusher readers, then we’d like to hear about it – submit suggestions of up to 500 words here