The BridLit Explorer • Chapter 2: Libreria

Welcome back, readers! The BridLit Explorer brings you a second chapter. This instalment is set in London, so reach for your Oyster cards…

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London’s Brick Lane has long been known as a place for mavericks. In the average mainstream bookshop there are often a select few authors you expect to be confronted with on arrival. Aphra Behn isn’t one of them. I am greeted by a book of hers at eye level as I step through the threshold of Libreria, which leaves me impressed and sorely wishing that I had known about this shop while at university. By exercising scrutiny I find that the neighbouring novels are of no alphabetical relevance to Behn, and from this I know I can believe the chatter that led me here. Somebody tipped me off about a new bookshop in Shoreditch, known strikingly for organising its books by interest.

No alphabet, no chronological ordering, and no displays prepped for flashes in pans. Instead, the keepers of this shop have perfectly strung rings of shelves together with genre, theme and topic alone. Searching like this, one could theoretically find George Orwell’s Animal Farm next to a book detailing proper care for your goats. As a reader, this is the kind of assistance in exploration I have longed for.

After asking Belinda Zhawi, a writer who works at the desk of the shop, I learn that the flow of genre starts transitioning horizontally, in the manner that one reads text on a page. She tells me that the lay of the shop (from the undulating stacks to the mirror wall at the back) is “like Borges’ Library of Babel, infinite.” Everything here works at subverting the rigidity of standard bookshops, right down to how customers choose their reading material.

It feels refreshing and doubtlessly well calculated. If you are near, or need to travel like myself, it is worth stopping by Libreria. You will not leave empty handed.