A Magical Bookshop in the East End: In Conversation with Lloyd Sowerbutts from Libreria

March 15, 2022

At Libreria, the books on the shelves are arranged according to broad themes like ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Enchantment for Disenchanted’ and ‘The City’, so that you’re constantly encountering titles you might not have come across otherwise. We spoke to Lloyd Sowerbutts from the bookshop to find out more.

How would you describe Libreria? 
Libreria is a bookshop by Second Home, with thematic curations to create serendipity and chance discovery. It is a great space for the curious browser to find authors and ideas they wouldn’t necessarily find on the internet and other places with conventional displays. 

When did Libreria open in East London? 
The shop opened in the Spring of 2016. 

What made the East London location the right one for Libreria? 
Second Home, a creative workspace for entrepreneurs and social impact organisations, conceived of Libreria. So it was natural to open the space opposite the first Second Home in Spitalfields. The area is renowned for its creative energy and vibrancy.   

What is your role at Libreria? 

I direct and manage the commercial offer and operations. I also produce events and podcast episodes to share the work and ideas of interesting writers and thinkers with a wider audience.     

What is your favourite part about what you do? 
I really enjoy creating a bookshop that is loved by customers and respected within the bookselling community. 

What makes Libreria unique? 
The obvious answer is the interior, designed by Selgascano architects, which is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Library of Babel”. The author writes of hexagonal rooms filled with every book that has been written, is to be written, and stretches on for eternity. Secondly, our books are curated by themes, such as Brain & Being, Utopia, Wanderlust and Enchantment for the Disenchanted. This results in seeing fiction alongside non-fiction and authors you recognise sharing space with authors you may have not discovered yet.

Can you tell us more about the cultural programme at Libreria? 
Our Cultural Programme is an ongoing series of various events and podcast episodes to share the work and ideas of interesting writers and thinkers with a wider audience.      

Are there any ways that local people can get involved? 
Before the pandemic my colleague Gabriela Spangenthal created the Language Labs initiative, to provide a space for ELATT to run their English-language lessons for local migrants in Tower Hamlets. This is open to volunteers in the wider community, but it’s currently on hiatus until it is safe to resume them. It is great to offer something with a social impact beyond bookselling, so I’m very keen to restart them soon. 

What is your favourite book? Any reading recommendations?
My answer to this changes often. The best I can offer is a shortlist of books that I discovered at the ‘right time’. They are:

Numbers in the Dark by Italo Calvino
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
Old Masters and Young Geniuses by David W. Galenson
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Plus, anything written by Sarah Hall – my literary crush

Find out more about Libreria at www.libreria.io

Libreria is open for browsing Tuesday to Sunday, until 6pm.

All photographs in this article are credited to Iwan Baan.

Author: greg

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