Mr drif field

Mr drif field

79 Golborne Road W10 5NL
7703152508website

The book dealer Driff Field (aka Drif, Driffield and Dryfield) used to publish a guide to secondhand bookshops, when they were numerous across the UK. Most of those bookshops have now disappeared, and drif’s guide ceased publication in the mid-1990s. Now drif is back on the Revisionist, offering his guide to charity bookshops, with a twist, a rant and a grudge. “Now is a great time to be a book collector, as long as you do not go to charity bookshops. If you have the cash and the space, the price of ordinary books is being forced down daily by the internet. But for the rare, oddball items, charity shops still offer surprises. The best charity bookshops are in the Home Counties, really. But I shall start with a tour of North London."

House of Hodge

House of Hodge

174 Blackstock Road N5 1HA
020 8127 4765website

This is undoubtedly the best stocked charity bookshop in London, and open to discussions. If only it was open more often, although it does claim to be so on a Sunday. [Ed’s note: Suzanne, one of the volunteers, told me that the last major donation from House of Hodge went to a cat sanctuary in Kent called Rhodes Minnis. The shop is named in honour of Hodge, Dr Samuel Johnson’s favourite cat, immortalised by Boswell in his Life of Johnson and by a statue outside Johnson’s house on Gough Square. The shop’s founder was Dr Doreen Rolph, a “well-read cat lover”.]

Palmers Green Red Cross Bookshop

Palmers Green Red Cross Bookshop

385 Green Lane N13 4JG
020 8882 5215website

This shop has a high calibre of books, and indeed looks more like a book fair, but it has similar prices to match. There are bargains to be had but you have to wade your way through several thousand very ordinary books first. [Ed’s Note: Martine the manager, says: “People keep telling us how nice the bookshop is because we have a good variety. We don’t just do bestsellers or fiction. We try to have as wide a range as possible. Generally customers say we are better than the other charity bookshops. We try to stock not just the books that sell but to keep the shop interesting with variety and quality. When people come they know they can browse and find something unusual. There’s a bit of mystery of it.” Les is the assistant manager. He runs the media department “amongst other things” and says the strength of the shop is “in its donations”. The other lady who volunteers there is Yolonde. She is from Luxembourg. Martine is French. They are all very friendly.]

Oxfam Bookshop Crouch End

Oxfam Bookshop Crouch End

22 Park Road Crouch End N8 8TD
020 8347 7942website

It is reliably open but the stock seems to be declining. If anything I think the eight charity shops in the high road are more rewarding. [Ed’s note: Chris, the manager, said: “We do best in art and design and the humanities. This is a reflection on the Crouch End community which has a lot of people in the media and entertainment. We serve a recycling function, taking unwanted books. We find homes for them. The money we raise goes to Oxfam. We support artists and have exhibitions to support arty projects. We are also a music shop. We are at the heart of the vinyl renaissance. We have been plugging vinyl for twelve years and now everyone wants it. But the enthusiasm started with shops like us. Next week, we will be doing a window with an old radiogram complete with all the vinyl they would have had in those days.”]

Oxfam Bookshop Muswell Hill

Oxfam Bookshop Muswell Hill

376 Muswell Hill Broadway N10 1DJ
020 8883 5171website

Seems more commercially minded than other Oxfam bookshops, but can be expensive.

Kentish Town Oxfam Bookshop

Kentish Town Oxfam Bookshop

166 Kentish Town Road NW5 2AG
020 7267 3560website

Not exactly outstanding. [Ed’s note: Nick is back on Thursday]

Animal Aid

Animal Aid

200 Blackstock Road N5 2LL
020 7359 0294website

Unreliable opening hours, but open to discussions about the prices. [Ed’s note: According to their website, this bookshop is run by “a voluntary animal welfare group, committed to rescuing and re-homing abused and stray cats in the North London area”.]

Second Chance

Second Chance

161 Blackstock Road N4 2JS
020 7359 8129website

Well worth visiting if you are in the area. Very reliable about opening hours but does not open Sundays. It regularly holds half-price sales. [Ed’s note: Shanawaz, the Minister of Highbury Quadrant Congregational Church told me: “We have this shop in order to be visible in the community. It’s been open for twenty to thirty years. Money raised goes to Open Doors, Christian Aid or towards Macmillan’s coffee mornings and International Leprosy.”]

Wanstead Oxfam

Wanstead Oxfam

1 Clock House Parade, High Street E11 2AG
020 8530 3413website

From Wanstead tube exit on north side towards Snaresbrook. The shop is on the right. This is about the best of the Oxfam bookshops. It is not obsessed by having everything in mint condition, but it is still quite highly priced on average. The good news is that it opens on Sundays. As far as I am aware there are no other secondhand bookshops in the whole of East London. I would be happy to be proved wrong about this.

Bloomsbury Oxfam

Bloomsbury Oxfam

12 Bloomsbury Street WC1B 3QA
0207 637 4610website

This place is appalling, I had not been in it for years, as the prices were so high. I could not even afford to look in the window. When I went in recently I could scarcely bear to stay, they have priced everything to its upper limit. However they have a stock that is better than most of the few antiquarian bookshops that are left in this part of London. The only way Oxfam can have kept this stock is by over-pricing the books, and hanging onto them for years. It is noticeable that there are no books in less than perfect condition, and you have to wonder what has happened to all the books that don’t measure up to this ridiculous standard? At a quick appraisal they had books that were priced up to a total of roughly £250,000-£500,000. The other difficulty with charity bookshops generally is that most of them are not open to offers. It is their divine belief that somehow they should be exempted from reality. They want to be in the commercial world, but they do not think they should have to join in with commercial realities. If you are prepared to do deals or give bargains then you will get the customers back! Giving discounts is not a mistake, it brings the customer back. Oxfam claims that it is there to help the poor, and yet they are now sitting on a stock that if they sold at sane prices they could help people now!

Heart Books & Music Shop

Heart Books & Music Shop

94 Streatham High Road, London SW16 1BS
020 8664 7490website

Only worth it if you are in the area. The Heart shops are now going in for books more and more but have some bizarre practices like asking £15 each for a two-volume set. The only thing to do in situations like this is buy the first volume, and wait until they reduce the price of the second. The problem is that most charity shops are not sane enough to do so.

Fara Charity Bookshop

Fara Charity Bookshop

34 Broad Street, Town Centre, Teddington TW11 8RF
020 8943 0876website

Very reliable with their opening hours, but mainly paperbacks and shiny dustwrappers. Having said that, I have found bargains here.