Bookshops in London - Safiya Chagani City Lights Bookshop front entrance(1 of 10).jpg

The entrance to City Lights showing full interior, Feb. 5, 2019.

School may have ruined reading for us book lovers, but reading for pleasure is proven to relieve stress, among a host of other cognitive benefits that can make those class readings a lot easier.

“The more you read, the more exposed you are to complicated words set in complex sentence structures,” says Debra Jared, a professor of psychology at Western University.

According to Jared, the descriptive language used in novels can help to strengthen readers' vocabulary, something that can be extremely useful while reading those complicated Karl Marx readings for class, and with a more advanced vocabulary comes a stronger ability to understand those complicated texts.

On top of all the assignments and midterms, it can be daunting to crack open a book for a class reading, let alone to do anything for fun. Fortunately for us in London, there are many independent bookstores that have a lot of character, amazing staff and great finds for affordable prices. Here’s a brief exploration of the many independent bookstores our city has to offer.

City Lights Bookshop

City Lights Bookshop should be considered a cultural monument in London. Current co-owners Jim Capel and Teresa Tarasewicz refer to City Lights as a “giant collage,” holding an eclectic collection of books from across all genres and time periods.

Opening as a comic book store in 1975, City Lights has transformed itself into a time capsule of philosophy, history and science fiction books, decorating the shelves with everything in between. Tarasewicz refers to reading as something that “cleanses our palettes” or acts like a “form of meditation.” In her own personal experience, Tarasewicz mentions that reading helps to soothe the brain, allowing her to process other texts in a much easier way.

City Lights is a “wander through someone’s very large brain," says Tarasewicz. It’s filled to the brim with books ranging from graphic novels to poetry to Shakespearean texts. On its upper floor are large collections of cookbooks, feminist literature and more — and even a huge selection of vinyl records.

City Lights has something for every reader.

Brown & Dickson Booksellers

Owners Vanessa Brown and Jason Dickson were in the bookstore industry for two decades before deciding to open Brown & Dickson two and a half years ago. Their customers are mainly students, and the store holds a wide range of books, including many topics that Western's courses cover. Subjects like art, math, history, philosophy and more can help students find the perfect companion text or deeper readings on their favourite courses. 

Along with their collection of academia, the store also has a range of fiction and non-fiction, pop culture and, as Dickson puts it, “weird stuff,” like books on the occult and ghost hunting. Brown and Dickson both value lining the shelves with novels that are considered to be “a cut above” in an attempt to trigger inspiration and excitement in readers.

“Sometimes, I’ll see a student look ashamed for purchasing a novel rather than a book for school,” says Dickson. “Reading shouldn’t be a chore.… You need to exercise your brain in order to reward it.”

Independent bookstores like Brown & Dickson offer novels rarely found at regular chains, including finds like bizarre comic books and zines. With expert staff on all things literary, all are bound to make some unique finds.

Mystic Bookshop

Mystic Bookshop holds an array of rare finds and proves to be a place for people with niche interests. Taken over by Mary Beechie in August, Mystic Bookshop contains a collection of books that specialize in mysticism, witchcraft and the occult. Entering the store immediately gives customers what Beechie refers to as a “funky vibe,” with crystals lining the display cases and an array of incense for purchase.

Beechie brings her passion for sharing books to Mystic, and with her experience managing the Goodwill Bookstore, she has the expertise to help customers find the read that they are looking for. She is also introducing fiction and non-fiction to expand her clientele. 

Reading is a form of escapism, and according to Beechie, it helps to train your imagination. This is evident with the books that line the shelves at Mystic. With Mystic’s collection of cookbooks that incorporate magic, guides to crystals and other novels relating to the occult, there really is no other place like this.

Every Saturday, Mystic offers something more than books, like tarot card readings and workshops on how to use and read tarot cards.

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