London's Best Book Store: Heywood Hill

The Mayfair shop's obsessive customer service beats Amazon's any day.

The queen shops there. Nancy Mitford worked there. David Mitchell swears by it. For 79 years, London’s literary-social hub has been an unassuming bookstore in Mayfair that could fit inside a Barnes & Noble café. Specializing in English literature, history, and light patrician gossip, “the Shop,” as its 5,000 devotees call it, is a haven for bibliophiles young and old. In the age of Amazon, Heywood Hill chairman Nicky Dunne stresses the store’s hyper-personalized approach, epitomized by its Year in Books service: one book a month, picked by senior staff based on the literary equivalent of a psych evaluation. “Recommending books is so intensely personal,” Dunne says. “Customers become like friends.” Who else would run a book to Gatwick for you between flights?

Sixty years ago, journalist Gavin Young wrote, “In [Saudi Arabia’s] southern Hejaz, my tent was cluttered with books I ordered from Heywood Hill, which came to me on camelback.” Now Dunne airmails his wares from Port Moresby to Montana; clients send back delighted selfies. But the dedication remains. “Cecil Beaton once called us an oasis,” Dunne says, “and that’s really what we are.” With or without camels. 10 Curzon St.;