My father used to own a rambling provincial bookshop. He was once asked to direct a customer to some esoterica. Peering over his copy of The Spectator, he directed the punter to a far-flung corner of the first floor: ‘It’s the second alcove on the left under "Cranks"’.
Such frank sectioning is sadly lacking at Libreria, East London’s hippest new bookshop, where Cookery is earnestly marked ‘Home and Hearth’ and Art and Architecture is called ‘Ways of Seeing’. I’m not quite sure what is deposited under ‘Enchantment for the Disenchanted’. I didn't dare look.
Libreria, for those not in the know, is the brainchild of trendy young entrepreneur Rohan Silva (a former special advisor to George Osborne) and his business partner Sam Aldenton. The launch party last Thursday night was fuelled by craft-gin cocktails and a sweary speech by Jeanette Winterson about Spitalfields Market.
The bookshelves are made from reclaimed plywood but it's clear that no expense has been spared in the execution. A bohemian ‘rag and bone bookstore of the heart’ cobbled together by penniless beatniks this is not. Even Silva admits that his new venture ‘doesn’t make much sense on a spreadsheet.’
Mobile phones are banned. Signs advertise this on the walls, but I'm not sure how Silva and co will enforce this. At the launch party Miss Steerpike refused to surrender hers on the grounds of common sense. Also, I shit you not, there is a printing press in the basement.
Books may not be organized alphabetically but somehow Libreria still manages to look like every other bookshop in the world. For all the emphasis on compelling East Londoners to buy authors no one has heard of there is still a disturbing amount of Lena Dunham on display.
As you might expect, from the inventors of Second Home, the shelves do contain every manual you could possibly conceive of about right-thinking creative industries. With one notable exception: Libreria lacks a copy of the hilarious 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. It's a must-read. I can heartily recommend it to any budding entrepreneur of Silva’s ilk.