Roaming Review: The Carnaby Book Exchange

Carnaby Book Exchange

What: The Carnaby Book Exchange, what it says one the tin really you take a book in and swap it for one that takes your fancy.

Where: Ground Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby, London W1.

Who: The Book Exchange was organised and continues to be curated by the MA Fashion Curation students at London College of Fashion.

Why: The mission statement, "To serve as an incubator for a passion shared, at what will possibly be London’s most diverse book club."

Refreshments: A packed lunch – sandwich, crisps, biscuit and your token box of juice and piece of fruit.


The idea of a book exchange is already sold on me, I love the idea of stumbling upon a new author or genre that you aren’t already aware of, as Stephen King once said, ‘Books are a uniquely portable magic.’

It has taken me nearly two years of working in the centre of Piccadilly Circus to discover The Carnaby Book Exchange and it only revealed itself to me when I got lost in the labyrinth that is Soho and ended up in Kingly Court. At first appearance, the Carnaby Book Exchange looks like a regular shop the only thing missing is any sign of a sales assistant or a check-out.

Once you’ve acknowledged that this is one of these ‘Honesty’ initiatives, that seem to be taking London by storm, and not an abandoned store you get the courage to actually go in. The layout is like a regular cafe but with the added bonus of not having to buy an overpriced coffee for the privilege of sitting on an uncomfortable wooden chair, yes Costa I mean you. The space is very clean and fresh, there’s white bookshelves lining the walls, stuffed with books in no particular order and some comfy chairs to relax in.

When you first walk in and sit down you feel a bit like you’re in a goldfish bowl, it’s surprisingly quiet and peaceful in there. It’s evident that fashion students have been involved with designing the space, with gestures to ‘old libraries’ and signs written on easels in a manuscript form, all personal touches that help separate you from the hustle and bustle of central London surrounding you.

In terms of exchanging books I may have cheated a little, as I swapped a book I couldn’t for the life of me get into, ‘The Room’ by Emma Donoghue, for something more up my historical street,  ‘MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service,’ by Keith Jeffery. Not only can you sit and relax with the book you’re already reading you can swap old books for a new one, obviously. In addition, you can write your recommendations, share your thoughts or just comment on what you think of the exchange itself, which gives an extra book club feel about the place.

The Carnaby Book Exchange will probably only be a place to seek refuge in my lunch hour due to its central location, I only venture into Zone 1 on a weekend if really necessary. However, as the winter draws in the desire to sit in Hyde Park or loose fingers to frost bite in St James’ Square wanes somewhat. Therefore, this gem of a discovery will certainly take precedence as a venue, to escape my computer and nagging colleagues, to have a relaxing time-out absorbed in the world of books.

Rating: 8 – escape the office in your lunch hour: Click Here


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