I love books, boats, and cats. It’s not a very well-kept secret of mine. Most people figure that out very quickly.
A friend of mine in Poland was no different. After a bit of chit chat, he deduced my likes (I’d brought Flannery to Poland, effectively bestowing her with the moniker The Expat Cat, I had a degree in English literature, and I grew up in the Great Lake State – not too hard, really). He the proceeded to tell me about some friends of his who have a bookshop in London: It’s on a boat. They also, my friend assured me, have cats. Books, boat, and cats. Check, check, and check.
Obviously, I wanted to visit such a shop. When I heard about some troubles they’d had to overcome to keep the shop afloat (pun intended) due to an eminent domain case, I was even more keen to visit. Unfortunately, both times I’d been in London, I was only there for a couple days to visit friends and had to pick a few things to do. This last time, however, I had four whole days to wander around London and see cool stuff. So, this time I went. Word on the Water (as the shop is called) is a short walk from Camden Town, so when my friend wanted to go there for lunch, I got her to agree to a post-lunch stroll and bookshop browse.
Naturally, I loved it. The weather was lovely – especially for London – and walking along the canal toward a boat filled with books was exactly the thing to make my day. The boat itself is the thing of postcards. It’s an old Dutch barge, which the guys have done a great job keeping it up – and doing it up! The top of the boat is covered with plants and a stage, where the bookbargemen host events. Not only are they bookseller/sailors, they’re artists, and their rooftop stage plays host to their musical performances, poetry slams, and readings.
In addition to all the books on the boat, there’s a landside table that runs alongside it for the whole length of the barge. And it is completely covered with books. And the boat is completely filled with books. It’s great. Their choice of books is also very good – they have both used and new books, and the selection is wide and varied. They have everything from crime fiction to Wordsworth. They also sell books from independent publishers, which is always great to see – independent publishers rarely get the attention they deserve, but they’re usually the ones publishing great new authors who haven’t made it big yet but are still worth a read.
All in all, this was one of the cutest bookstores I’ve ever been in (this despite the fact that the cats were in hiding when I visited – I’ll just have to come back another time).
Location: Word on the Water, the London Bookbarge, is moored on the Regent’s Canal Towpath, right off Granary Square, all of a ten-minute walk from King’s Cross Station. So if you find yourself traveling through King’s Cross and in need of something to read, follow King’s Boulevard north to the canal, and once over the bridge, turn right.
Opening Hours: everyday from 12 noon until 7PM
Website: Find their Facebook page here – note: there’s a link to their online shop from this page!