On Friday evening I got back to London’s King’s Cross after an epic train journey - so obviously the first thing I did was to head to the nearest bookshop.
Housmans is really more than a bookshop, though. It’s London’s oldest - and first - radical bookshop, having occupied its site on Caledonian Road since the late 1940s. It mainly stocks political literature, and holds regular talks and events, but I first discovered it a few years ago while hunting for little books and zines (they have an impressive array of interesting and obscure zines, pamphlets and magazines, which is something I love to see in a bookshop). So what about the second-hand books?
Outside, there was a trolley of second-hand books and a sign promising loads more in the basement - all priced £1. Who could resist? Forgetting all about the tiring train journey etc, I wandered in and found shelves and boxes full of old books, falling over, overflowing. OK, it wasn’t exactly tidy, and the dust made me start sneezing immediately. But it was a small price to pay for the, er, small price of the books.
As well as a large number of ex-library, political, social and economic titles, there was plenty of mid-twentieth century fiction and poetry, and I emerged with a bagful of books, including Raymond Chandler’s Playback, a Pelican history of the USSR, and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott (bought, admittedly, mainly for the seriously beautiful front cover).