Charlie Sheen is not alone, we have our weaknesses too. Wandering along Charing Cross Road the other day, lamenting the loss of Murder One, Shipley’s and Bunjies folk cellar just around the corner, we spotted that Koenig Books have a bargain basement. The faint scent of discounted books was too much. A moment’s hesitation, a brief and half-hearted wrestle with the conscience, and we were in.
Koenig occupies the site on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Litchfield Street which was home to Zwemmer until recently, and their sign is still visible, painted over but kept intact. The effect of this is one of reverence and respect for the old institution. Like Zwemmer before it, Koenig is an art bookshop, piled high with bulky volumes and esoteric periodicals, all neatly displayed and presented. On the ground floor it’s business as usual, with an excellent range of titles, and customers milling around the small space, chatting on their phones and absentmindedly leafing through pages.
The downstairs section is every bit as orderly and well-maintained, it’s well-stocked too – with a central table and floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls. Best of all, there are bargains in the true sense of the word – items you might want at full price, rather than just too cheap to resist. Several hefty books gave us the glad eye: The Story of Graphic Design in France by Michel Wlassikoff (£14.80 from £35), Pop (Themes & Movements) by Mark Francis (£19.95 from £39.95) and FSA: The American Vision (£24.80 from £50), a great doorstop of a thing, documenting the work of America’s Farm Security Administration between World Wars. On our way up the staircase we noticed a small stack of Lesley Jackson’s The Sixties: Decade of Design Revolution.
A final word for their canvas tote bags, a snip at just £1, and just the thing to carry a two kilo book.
Koenig Books, 80 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0BF. Tel: 020 7240 8190
Images all come Flickr, our camera failing us on this occasion.
Oh, and we should mention that our maps are for sale at Koenig's outlet at The Serpentine Gallery.
Our guides are printed in England on 100% recycled paper