I had a free evening, so I thought that I’d explore a little. I heard about this book store in London called Foyles. It’s named on every best London bookstore I’ve seen. I decided to check it out.
The local bookstore in Seattle is Elliot Bay Books. It’s a very large bookstore and I go to it a lot. When I stepped into Foyles, it gave off that same vibe, but slightly more upscale.
I went wandering around. I stumbled upon the sports section, which was over 50% devoted to football (ie soccer) and cricket, much to my amusement. I then meandered over to the fiction section. It looked to be larger than Elliot Bay, but really by not all that much. Not all that surprisingly, it was stocked much heavier with English (ie UK subjects) authors. Where in the US, there might be a couple of A.S. Byatt works, here there’s an entire shelf with multiple copies of her oeuvre. There was a quite strong set of books from both Martin and Kingsley Amis. I was somewhat surprised to see more than a row for J. G. Ballard. Now I knew he was English, but I did not know that he had such a strong following here. In the US, you’ll usually see three or four of his works. Here there was probably well over a dozen.
I ended up getting two works of fiction from authors that I never heard of (intentionally so, I was not about to buy a Grisham novel at an English bookstore). One is a French writer with a postmodern, darkly humorous look. The other is a Swedish comedic writer. Time will tell if I chose wisely.
I was wandering around. I was fairly impressed, but not overwhelmingly so. It was certainly bigger than Elliot Bay, but this is London, and it is a notable bookstore. I began to wonder if possibly Elliot Bay was actually a world class book store that I just did not recognize as such.
I realized that I had three more floors to go. I had only done ground, the first, and the second floors. I did not even realize that there was a third, fourth, and fifth.
Now that I thought of it, there were several categories of books that I had not encountered yet. Well, I did so now, and then some.
There was an extensive (again, not surprisingly) Shakespeare section, not just his works in various editions but pretty much anyone that ever wrote anything that mentioned Shakespeare was represented here.
There was an extensive film section. There was row after row of film analysis and criticism. There was an entire bookcase devoted purely to screenplays.
And then I encountered the medical section. They had full scale poster size diagrams of body parts. They had cutouts of brains and of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat. They had entire bookcases devoted to specialties like cardiology and urology. The books seemed to be medical school textbooks (note, I’m not a doctor). And oh, btw, you can select from a wide variety of stethoscopes. By wide variety, I think there were probably two dozen distinct types for sale.
It had the largest history section I’ve ever seen. Not surprisingly, there were multiple bookcases devoted to WWI and WWII. More surprisingly, there was another bookcase devoted to the American Civil War. There was a robust set of histories for pretty much every part of the world.
Finally, the coup de grace was the language section. An entire floor was devoted to it. There were entire bookshelf rows of French literature. There was an entire bookshelf row of German literature. There was an entire bookshelf row of Russian literature. Note that I mean books written in that language. Sure there were books that taught you how to learn languages, but there were many hundreds of books written in a language other than English. You head off onto the smaller bookshelves and you see books that are written in Portuguese, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Romanian, and others. If you wanted, you can read The Hunger Games in Czech.
This just really highlighted how London is truly a global metropolis. The fact that there is a market for such a broad range of languages speaks to its true melting pot qualities.
After my mind was blown by Foyles, I went out for a walk. It was probably about 9:00 PM on a Friday night, and London was hopping! I walked through the theater district, Piccadilly Circus, and Chinatown. There were throngs of people of all nations speaking all languages, all out for a walk, a dinner, and possibly some drinking. There was certainly a lot of drinking taking place. One thing that I do find amusing is the fact that when pubs are full, people simply take their pints out and drink on the sidewalk, in the street, where ever there’s room. And the great thing is, no one really cares. No one’s causing any harm, so no one’s really getting upset.