Just down the road from Tufnell Park tube on Fortess Road you’ll find two “free books” shops. The concept is simple, revolutionary and not a single customer who was there while I was around actually believed it.

Every year thousands of good books are pulped simply because there is no real mechanism to get them into the hands of someone who wants to read them. The Healthy planet initiative is here to help by rescuing as many of those books as it can and giving them away to a grateful public.

The organisation, which is a charity focused on sustainability issues, is helping to avoid sending precious books to landfill and helping those who can’t afford many books to stock up, something that comes in particularly useful for parents with knowledge hungry kids. This is a genuinely brilliant idea.

Everyone who is working at the two shops is a volunteer loosely supported by the national charity, but because there’s no money involved and all their wares are free the actual amount of hour to hour work in the shop is reasonably low.

As you’ll see from the pictures they’re pretty low on furniture and you’ll find yourself rummaging through piles of high quality books laid lovingly on the floor because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

This low cost model of second hand bookshop (which includes some real finds and does seem to have a much better selection than most charity shops) is fascinating, facilitated as it is by the fact that many shops are empty at the moment so some landlords are open to letting their places be used rent free (because it takes the burden of rates off their hands and charities pay a much reduced rate).

You need to keep your eyes open for them though because they’ve not really lashed out on frontage, with one shop still bearing the signs from the insurance people who were there before. However, do come and find them as a unique experiment in sustainable living as well as for the opportunity to pick up some great books for free.

One shop on Fortess Road has a large range of kids books and the other was described to me as the “adult bookshop” but disappointingly simply had books for adults rather than free “adult books”.

A place to sit, read and enjoy

The second shop, keep your eyes peeled!

Beautiful books, all free for the taking

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16 Comments

  1. Hi, I am the founder of the charity and one of the Fortess Road volunteers told me about your piece yesterday. I just wanted to say thank you for blog and raising the awareness of what we do – you deserve a free book…..on us!
    Thanks again, Shaylesh

    • Alex says:

      It is indeed a great shop. Pity I can’t say the same about the male volunteer or worker who was there today though! (wednesday) If he cannot be polite to customers he should not work there. I asked a question and got a sarcastic reply. chose some books & put a donation in the tin and he huffed and never even said thanks or goodbye. Manners cost nothing.

  2. alex. please could you contact our volunteer co-ordinator david.sharman@healthyplanet.org so we can look into your feedback. thank you for bringing it to our attention. shaylesh

  3. Verity says:

    love this shop, and have always been welcomed with a smile from the lovely guys volunteering when ive been in today and every other time- thank you!

  4. Jo Tang says:

    Dear Shaylesh,

    I work at a school in North London, and the science department are having a big clear out. We have lots of old science books that need a new home. Please could you give me a contact number or email if you would be interested in picking them up?

    Best,
    Jo

  5. logistics@healthyplanet.org
    the team is on 0203 405 2485
    chin and richard are rhe guys to speak too.

    thank you jo. sounds great.

  6. Kat Hopps says:

    Hi there,

    Can you please let me know your opening times? I have quite a few books to drop off to the shop.

    Thanks,
    Kat

  7. NATASHA says:

    I have just discovered the books for free project /shop in Tufnell Park … what a gem and a discovery . Went in and had a lovely chat and connect with Jacqueline one of the volunteers it was a really special start to my Sunday and I am hoping to be able to volunteer with you. So Jacqueline if you are reading this!
    I am just starting the Primo Levi ….x hope to hear from you soon
    Natasha

  8. Sinead Thorpe says:

    Hi there, I’m a student currently on the BA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martins. I was wondering if you would accept a proposal for an artwork at the shop. I wanted to have an interactive projection onto the window (which would be covered with tracing paper so that the projection would become visible from outside). My work is concerned with public participation and communication. Members of the public would be invited to come into the shop and help change the image being projected. Visually the projection will resemble that of a Gustav Metzger Liquid Crystal Projection with inks, paint and oils in a perspex tray, on the overhead projector. I will also include acetate, which can be written on. Please email me if there is a possibility of doing this at the shop. I can send you some images of tests I’ve done in my studio.

    Many Thanks,
    Sinead

    • Jacquelyn says:

      Hi Sinead. I’m the Lead Volunteer at Books For Free NW5. Only just seen this (I didn’t even know this article existed until today – just did a random google!) – sorry for the delayed reply. It would be great to chat more about your idea – sounds very interesting indeed. We’re always looking to support local community arts/cultural projects. Drop me an email at healthyplanetnw5@gmail.com and let’s talk!

      Thanks, Jacquelyn

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