June 24, 2019

Reading up: A literary guide to London

British Library
a literary guide

Among the most widely used services in the world, libraries and bookshops stand as fountains of knowledge. While the internet and technological advances have seen some of these respected institutions change tack to accommodate for a contemporary age, they are still an icon of learning and academia and often a haven for the undergraduate and postgraduate students of London.

Some of the world’s best facilities are found in London, with the peace and quiet offering a refreshingly different space to find study material for your masters degree in accounting and finance or any other qualification in the capital. If you’re keen to embark on a hunt for literary hotspots in the city, the diversity of London libraries and bookshops is sure not to disappoint and here we have gathered a whole encyclopaedia of the best.

Start at the library

A good place to start is the British Library, standing as the national library of the United Kingdom and home to more than 150 million items from all over the world – including a staggering 14 million books, as well as manuscripts which date back to 2000BC. First established in 1974 and moving to its current home at St Pancras where it was formally opened by HM the Queen in 1998, it is regarded as one of the two largest libraries on Earth, a status it shares with the Library of Congress in the US.

The material on offer at this London library is constantly expanding, with its status as a legal deposit library meaning that it receives nearly three million new items every year. Another reason for many to visit is the wealth of historical items which are held there, including the Diamond Sutra – the oldest printed book in the world, which dates back to 11 May 868.

While the British Library is one of the largest resources of its kind in the country, there are many other institutions that are equally useful and perhaps even more relevant for your work. One such example is the Westminster Reference Library. As well as being a great resource for those partaking in higher education study in London the Westminster Reference Library also offers some fantastic youth-based projects, which can be read about in detail via their Facebook page and blog.

Weiner Library
Weiner Library

Similarly the Wiener Library is another fantastic institution that can help with all sorts of undergraduate and postgraduate projects. Here is what they said about their institution:

“The Wiener Library holds Britain’s most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era.  Formed in 1933, the Library’s unique collection of over one million items includes published and unpublished works, press cuttings, photographs and eyewitness testimony. Located at 29 Russell Square, the Library is open to the public free of charge from 10am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, with late opening on Tuesday evenings until 7.30pm. Alongside the collection, the Library has a temporary exhibition space and a vibrant events programme covering a vast range of topics.”

–      The Weiner Library

For the latest news and events at the Weiner Library see their Facebook page Twitter account.

Discover the wealth of London bookshops

While the British Library, the Westminster Reference Library and the Weiner Library are all fantastic for helping you discover London’s literary experience, the only problem is that you will ultimately have to give the books back. If you want to find a book to take home and cherish as your own, it might be worth stopping off at one the fantastic London bookshops scattered around the city on your way home.

Whether tucked away into side streets and corners, or taking pride of place on the High Street, independent book stores offer a chance to pick up a real bargain. Sporadically situated across the capital, one of the best examples is Stoke Newington Bookshop – an award-winning shop which has stood proudly on Stoke Newington High Street since 1987.

Another is Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road, who are experts in offering a wealth of historical literature and travel books, as well as second-hand and antiquarian material – all of which could be perfect accompaniments while you are studying for executive MBA programs in London.

Literary festivals for the diary

While reading is usually a solitary affair, that by no means suggests that the literary world like to keep quiet, or to themselves. There are a whole programme of literary festivals that take place throughout the year and the standard of events in London is higher than anywhere else in the country.

The London Literature Festival held at the Southbank Centre each autumn is regarded as one of the most prestigious of its kind and draws a huge crowd every year ranging from authors and critics to the general public with a pure love of books and writing.

Similarly the Soho Literary Festival has gained in popularity immensely in recent years, attracting such names as Stephen Fry, David Hepworth and Michel Roux to their impressive programme of speakers. Inviting authors, students and the public alike to come and spend a weekend at the end of September with their literary heroes and with ticket prices not exceeding £9, it is a fantastic event on its own let alone as an addition to the already brilliant London literary festival scene.

Soho Lit Fest
Soho Lit Fest

For an equally engaging event that offers its visitors something a bit different by way of literature be sure to visit the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival. Taking place in May every year it plays ghost to some of the best guest speakers in the Asian literary canon. With guest speakers including Nobel laureates and Man Booker prize winners alongside debut novelist it is one of the city’s best.  If you can’t wait until May, Asia House hosts plenty of other fantastic events throughout the year, sign up to their newsletter to find out more.

Lit Fest
Lit Fest
Stoke fest

Finally, for something a bit different again be sure to visit the Stoke Newington Literary Festival in the June. Having launched in 2010, event organisers are keen to show their visitors that they are here to offer literature fans something different, here is what they had to say:

“Literary festivals are popping up all over the country, not least in the capital. Stoke Newington Literary Festival was one of the first of the ‘new wave’ of lively, interactive events featuring fiction, non-fiction and poetry writers and, five years in, is critically acclaimed as perhaps the most eclectic, fun and inspiring literary festivals in the UK.

“The festival is inspired by the area’s history as a place where radical thinkers and dissenters gathered to foment the latest ideas of the day – Mary Wollstonecraft ‘invented’ feminism here, and the Founding Fathers passed through to pick up the progressive thinking that would help shape the New World. Edgar Allen Poe, Daniel Defoe and Joseph Conrad, as well as a host of more contemporary writers also lived and worked here and Hackney continues to attract writers, artists and musicians who are inspired by the East of London’s unique cultural vibe.”

–      Stoke Newington Literary Festival

If you have any top tips on other great literary sights not to be missed in the capital, be sure to share them with our students on the GSM London Facebook page


Image Credits: Soho Literary Festival, George Tarode, Westminster Reference Library, British Library © Paul Grundy, BWA for the Wiener Library, Stoke Newington Literary Festival davidxgreen.com


This content was written by Rachel Smith. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.

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