Tucked away on a quiet street off Chelsea’s bustling Kings Road, is a wonderful independent bookshop, John Sandoe Books. Remaining in the original location on Blacklands Terrace where John Sandoe first set up shop, the bookstore now spans three side by side stores acquired over a fifty-year period.
Stepping inside, a literary haven awaits. John Sandoe Books has an allure of understated elegance and muted neutral tones that are calming and timeless. It’s easy to lose an hour or two roaming the shelves of the three levels of books that have been collected over decades. Originally founded in 1957 by bookseller, John Sandoe, this sixty-two-year-old establishment is renowned for the extensive knowledge and experience of the booksellers and their ability to track down virtually any book, even those out of print.
John Sandoe himself passed away over a decade ago, but his little bookshop continues to thrive. In Sandoe’s time, he established and deeply engrained an ethos that has survived him. Now a British icon, John Sandoe Books has moved confidently into the millennial age, a testament to six decades of quality bookselling.
My visit was characterised by my own clumsiness. Gorgeous books from floor to ceiling are a bibliophile’s dream come true, right? Usually yes… except that I accidentally knocked a book off a table, which would not have been quite so catastrophic if it weren’t strategically acting as a bookend keeping twenty other books in place. This one little mishap set into motion a domino effect and an entire avalanche of books began falling all over the floor in a crashing heap.
Needless to say, I quickly rushed around trying to tidy everything up, completely ruining the quiet ambiance and disrupting a shop full of people. When I finally recomposed myself and my surroundings, I silently carried on with my book shopping with blushed cheeks, finally deciding on a copy of The Librarian by Sally Vickers.
John Sandoe is an integral part of my life in London. It is quite simply the best bookshop anyone could wish for
– Edna O’Brien
I always try to buy my books from independent bookshops. As the saying goes, when you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance. Quite a few independent bookshops have closed in Melbourne (my hometown) in the last few years, which breaks my heart. Yes, you can buy for less if you shop online or buy from big retailers, but where is the heart and community in that? Being able to ask a bookseller for a book recommendation that will change your life is worth a few extra dollars.
John Sandoe Books
10-12 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, London, SW3 2SR