A once wandering 1920’s barge has taken up permanent residence along York Way on London’s Granary Square, just a short walk from Kings Cross and the British Library. Yet, this is no ordinary passenger barge, it’s a floating bookshop called Word on the Water – a trove of new and used books stacked amidst a funky bohemian ambience.
True literature lovers surely have a floating bookshop on their bucket list? The sultry tones of jazz floated through the air as I walked towards the barge. I was greeted as I approached and welcomed to go inside and pour myself a glass of lemonade.
For a short while I had the whole barge to myself, even in the midst of the summer tourist season. It meant that I could fossick through their quality collection uninterrupted, except for the gaze of the friendly resident dog, who quite happily received a pat on the head before drifting off to sleep. I couldn’t help but consider what a dream life that must be.
The interior is ordered chaos with books stacked on every available surface, from floor to ceiling. There is a wood-burning stove maintaining optimal levels of cosiness in the cooler months, with large leather chairs to read a while. Outside, the barge is loaded up with book displays, art, and equipment for live acoustic musical performances.
After spending half an hour perusing the shelves and flipping through boxes, I settled on a copy of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, her influential 1792 pamphlet about women and education. The vibrant orange cover of the Vintage Feminist edition caught my eye and soon made its way into my bag. When I disembarked the vessel, I handed over my money to Paddy and Jon, two of the three original dreamers of the book barge. They seemed to thrive on having a banter and sharing their love of literature with the bookish community. I found them quite happily perched on stools outside basking in the sunshine, drinking coffee and living the dream.
Word on the Water may not contend with rough seas, pirates or the like, but she has seen her fair share of challenges, from leaks to homelessness. Once located on the main Regent’s Canal, the barge was forced to find a new moor every two weeks, which was not ideal for the growing legion of loyal customers who were continually having to track their local bookstore down. When more than 6,000 people appealed to the Canal Trust, Word on the Water was bestowed with a permanent home at Granary Square, to the delight of many.
Word on the Water
Regent’s Canal Towpath. York Way, Granary Square, London N1C 4LW, United Kingdom.
See it on Google Maps.
Telephone: +44 7976 886982
Open seven days a week from noon to 7pm.
Check out their Facebook page for more information and details about upcoming events.
For an insight into Word on the Water, check out this short documentary on You Tube
Fancy unique and wonderful bookshops? Come and check out some more right over here