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Literary London

There are plenty of things to enjoy about living in London, but if you like books at all there’s not a better place I can imagine. For starters, you’re always turning corners and running into a blue plaque telling what author lived there in 1842, and there are plenty of London scenes cropping up in books. But its the bookstores that make it fun. Charing Cross Road is famous for a stretch near Leicester Square. It starts off with the big superstores, Foyle’s and Blackwell, which are both UK stores and a Border’s all on the same block. All these superstores are several stories with coffee bars and titles on any topic you can imagine. Then, on the next blocks there’s a string of independent shops lined up in a row, with one store devoted to art books, another strictly for crime fiction (called Murder One) and so on. Wherever you are in the city there’s usually one of these tiny shops crammed to the ceilings with the most random collection of titles. I also like Stanford’s in Covent Garden which is dedicated to travel. Tonight they were serving mulled wine and mince pies plus a 20%-off sale so I picked up a map showing World War II battlefields and memorials in Europe. They have some beautiful old wall maps that cost a fortune that I’d love to have.

I did run into something odd tonight, while I was browsing at Foyle’s. They have a section devoted to Terrorism and I picked up a book called The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry on the July 7 terror attacks that occurred here in 2005. When I flipped to the table of contents, there were headings that had the text grayed out so that it was unreadable. It was neatly done and you could tell it was intentionally printed that way. If you opened to that page in the text there would be big blocks of text likewise grayed out, with the explanation that it had been removed for “legal reasons.” I thought that was incredible that something would be censored like that, but still published. We take freedom of speech for granted in the U.S. I suppose. I haven’t been able to find anything about it on the web yet. It does kind of put a damper on the literary London idea though.


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