John Clegg


John navigates the Bookshop’s poetry section like a seasoned mariner (though he often runs aground on J.H. Prynne). He’s also a poet in his own right: his first collection, Antler, won an Eric Gregory award, and his second will be published by Carcanet. When he’s not conducting séances in the basement, he mans the Bookshop Twitter account.

Ask John about: poetry, natural history, crime, his personal rankings of Mr Kipling cakes.

Recommendations by John

John recommends

Some of John's favourite books from across the shop.

London Review of Rooks: Books about Birds

Keats’ nightingale, Coleridge’s albatross, Flaubert’s parrot, Catullus’s sparrow, Bishop’s sandpiper, Kafka’s owl, Yeats’ wild swans, Poe’s raven, Shelley’s skylark, Plath’s pheasant, Hughes’ crow, Ibsen’s duck, West’s ...

The Ways Through the Woods

Eleven books, each with a different angle on the forest, from the gripping psychological drama of The Golden Spruce to David Morley, whose poems on trees are some of the finest in the language (‘European Larch’, in the volume we’ve chosen, ...

Fairy Tales and Fables

‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales’ (Albert Einstein). From Ingri D’Aulaire’s beautifully illustrated versions of Norse mythology, to ...

Posts by John

Bloomsbury Continues to Reopen

A couple of weeks ago I compiled a (short incomplete) list of what was open in Bloomsbury - here are some updates.


First, and most importantly, Franx Continental Cafe is back open. It isn't really in Bloomsbury - ...

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Poem of the Week: 'Bar Italia' by Declan Ryan

Declan Ryan's debut pamphlet was published as part of the Faber New Poets series. His second pamphlet, Fighters, Losers, was published last year by New Walk.

Bar Italia

for Hugo Williams

I know the place. Rarely in ...

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Bloomsbury Slowly Reopens

Life is gradually starting to return to Bloomsbury; if you’re planning to spend an afternoon pottering round the neighbourhood, here is a partial list of what’s open and what’s changed.

Other Bookshops

On ...

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Reopening the Bookshop: A Photo Diary

We’ve had a lively time over the last fortnight getting the shop in a fit state to reopen. To record how we did it for post-COVID posterity, I’ve been charged with creating a photo diary of the process.

There was ...

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100 Things I Miss About the Actual Bookshop

  1. Changing the till roll on the till roll printer
  2. Getting new till roll from the cupboard downstairs
  3. Forgetting to order more till roll and having to borrow some from Bury Food and Wine
  4. The satisfying heft of a bag of ...
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Christmas Quiz 2019

Here's this year's Christmas Quiz. Email your answers to, using the subject header CHRISTMAS QUIZ ENTRY - the first correct answer drawn from a hat on the 6th January wins a 'relevant book'.

1) What ...

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Reading all the Maigrets

On the 9th January next year, Penguin will publish the 75th and final Inspector Maigret novel, Maigret and Inspector Charles. It’s been a remarkable project - the series has been entirely retranslated (wherever I’ve ...

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Christmas Quiz 2018

Our Christmas Quiz this year is themed around 'Australian mammals', including mammals from all three of the main groups: monotremes, eutheria, and metatheria. Each round focuses on a different mammal. Answers should be ...

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1997: An Update

Good Morning.

My name is Prestell Jaffe, former CEO of Blockbuster Video and editor-in-chief of 1997 - the journal devoted to poems about films released in cinema's best ever year, 1997. There's a brief introduction to ...

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Emily Reviews...

Emily and I have been really enjoying the series of children’s books illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, beginning with Where’s Mr. Dog and continuing through to Where’s Mrs. Zebra (published this year by Nosy ...

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What I've Been Reading on my Parental Leave

In January I started six months' parental leave to look after a lively seven-month-old called Emily. Here's what I've been reading. I've divided it into several categories and left children's books off it altogether ...

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Poetry Picks 2017

Peter Guillam climbed once again the familiar staircase in the familiar Mitteleuropa backwater where George Smiley had holed up for yet another go at retirement. The door was ajar; Smiley was in the bedroom packing his ...

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Potential Vampires in Fiction

Which literary characters are potentially vampires? We surveyed a wide audience on Twitter and elsewhere, and the following names kept recurring. Obviously we wouldn’t tell the Watcher Council how to do their business, ...

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1997: A New Poetry Magazine

Good Morning.

My name is Prestell Jaffe, the former CEO of Blockbuster Video. Since retiring in 2009 and disgrace, I’ve long been thinking about my next project. I’d like to introduce you to ‘1997: A Journal of ...

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Lunch Hour Walk - Poets' Houses

Starting from the bookshop, how many poets' houses is it possible to visit in a single lunch hour? I decided to find out.

35 Boswell Street

35 Boswell Street - Wilfred Owen, Robert Frost, W.W. Gibson and Harold ...

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LRB Screen Bookseller's Choice: The Fugitive

There’s a strong case for 1993 being the second-best year in the history of film (behind the annus mirabilis 1997): Jurassic Park, Cool Runnings, Demolition Man, the unexpectedly excellent Hocus Pocus, bookshop ...

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The Poetry World in 2017 - Some Predictions

  • Last year’s merger of Carcanet and Anvil was just the beginning; 2017 will be a Year of Consolidation. Picador and Cape will merge into a single terrifying conglomeration, Capador. Chatto & Windus will finally settle ...
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Our Year on Twitter

Around this time last year, Natalia, the capricious manager of the LRB Bookshop, decided it would be a sensible business to set up a Shop Twitter Account. Over the subsequent twelve months, the account has gone from ...

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Shakespeare: The Bookshop Top Ten 2016

As has become our custom, we present the Shakespeare Rankings for 2016 (Arden only). This year we also present the Shakespeare Big Nothings: the works of the Bard which have not sold a single copy in the past year. This ...

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Christmas Poetry Picks 2016

Superintendent Bright looked up from his desk and cocked his head. ‘Morse!’ he called, shrilly. ‘You like poetry, don’t you?’

The dashing Endeavour Morse filled in the answer to 3 down. ‘I do, sir. My ...

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The Christmas Opening Hours Blogpost

As a bookseller, there’s one question that I can be sure of hearing every year, round about now: ‘John, have you put up the Christmas opening hours blogpost?’ I smile every time I hear it, because it means one ...

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The Booker Prize Winners, 1900-1968

If the Booker Prize had begun in 1900 - rather than in 1969 - who would have won each year? This is a provisional set of answers: if you have better suggestions, please email us, or tweet us using the hashtag ...

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A European Poetry Picnic

Pippa Middleton writes:

Now that summer is finally here, there's nothing I like more than to head to my local bookshop for a European Poetry Picnic! I've come up with a few hints to help you plan your own.

  • Go for ...
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The Soseki Lunch Challenge

Natsume Soseki is the bookshop’s author of the month for May, and in celebration of his adventures as a student in London we are proud to present the Soseki Lunch Challenge. Starting from the Bookshop, our young hero ...

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Which Poet of the Stray Dog Cafe are you?

Morning found you lying…

a) In a sledge packed deep with straw, the fateful matting scarcely covering you
b) In a bunk bed above Nikolai Gumilev, your first husband
c) In a bunk bed under Anna Akhmatova, your ...

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Shakespeare: the Bookshop Top Ten 2015

For the third year running, we’ve remembered to make a Christmas list of which Shakespeare plays have sold best in the bookshop. Normally the results are counterintuitive and point to strange undercurrents in ...

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Christmas Quiz 2015

The bookshop quiz this year consists, as usual, of 28 pictures of chins. This year, however, there is an important difference – each chin is accompanied by a cryptic clue, which will reveal the name of its owner. ...

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Christmas Poetry Picks 2015

‘So it exists,’ said David, as Christopher Ricks produced a brown A4 envelope from the folds of his copious jacket and passed it across the table. I held it up for a moment: Not Until December 2015, read the ...

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T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist announced

From The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, Iona and Peter Opie, (1958):

Also deserving of remark, though marked much less than it was formerly, is the 22nd October, the day of the T.S. Eliot Prize Shortlist ...

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Italian Poetry - Three Recommendations

Tomorrow, so I am reliably informed, is both National Poetry Day and the eighth day of the London Review Bookshop’s Italy month. Author of the month, small press of the month and now country of the month – it’s all ...

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Forward Prize Results 2015 - a Special Announcement

The hacks filed grumpily back into the press room. ‘I wish I knew what this was about’, muttered the Daily Record’s Science Correspondent to a chorus of affirmation. ‘Fly us out here to announce they’ve found ...

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The experience of reading J.H. Prynne’s Al-Dente is utterly sui generis; from the baffling collision of particles which begins ‘Morning’ (‘To the or so then for all for on, both for / these an or then…’), to ...

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John Hartley Williams - a celebration

John Hartley Williams was little-known enough that, reading him, you felt party to a great literary secret, like stumbling across an astonishing restaurant down an unpromising back alley. I started with his ...

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Poetry Pamphlet Round-Up

Due to their utter spinelessness, there’s always a risk of poetry pamphlets getting lost on the shelves – which is a real shame – there’s some wonderful stuff in the shop at the moment. Especially exciting are ...

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Father Brown: The Complete Rankings

This is a ranking of all G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, which to my taste are the best short mystery stories I’ve read. I admire their freedom with genre and setting, jumping easily from Gothic horror ...

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The Forward Prize shortlist 2015 announced

The Forward Prize for Poetry shortlist has been announced, always an exciting time in the bookshop, as it gives us a chance to wheel out our literary tipster 'Lucky Jim', who for the rest of the year is kept frozen in ...

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Things I Learnt From Reading Gavin Francis

From Empire Antarctica:

  • It is possible to taxidermize a baby penguin using carpet tacks, a toffee hammer, rolled-up tissue paper, wood glue and marbles (for the eyes).
  • Early whaling vessels used penguin corpses as fuel ...
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Prynne-dow Competition

I amar prestar aen. The world is changed. Han matho ne nen. I feel it in the water. Han mathon ned cae. I feel it in the earth. A han noston ned gwilith. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now ...

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Days of Surprise and Days of Stocktakes

Paul Durcan has found a style like no-one else’s, a style that it is hard to imagine anyone else making anything out of: wildly varying line lengths, faux-naïve rhyming, conversational banalities, adjectives piled on ...

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Dancing in the Dark

Karl Ove Knausgaard's latest volume, Dancing in the Dark, gives us Knausgaard aged 18, moving to the small town of Håfjord in the Arctic Circle to become a high school teacher. It joins the pantheon of books taking ...

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Penguin 80s Competition, or Solemn Pact

Newly arrived in the bookshop: 80 short and wonderfully chosen books from Penguin, selling for a mere 80p a pop, to celebrate the publishing house’s 80th birthday. Just to show how heartily we approve, here is our ...

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Tiresome Condiment Anecdotes

The first time I read Elaine Feinstein’s poetry I was in a filthy temper because the mustard in a bratwurst I’d been holding at an angle had escaped onto my trousers earlier that afternoon, and then a thunderstorm ...

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Ten Ideas to Save the Book Trade

Gloomy prognostications about the future of the book trade are ten a penny; what's missing is a hearty dose of out-of-the-box strategy. This ten-point plan would allow the industry to adapt to the changing marketplace, ...

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Small Publisher of the Month: Rack Press

Probably it’s best for small presses to aim at doing one thing really well. Rack Press, run by the indomitable Nick and Sue Murray, has for ten years coming up this February produced lively, interesting poetry ...

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Shakespeare: the Bookshop Top Ten 2014

In the tradition which has been called 'without question, the most important critical project in Shakespeare studies today' (Professor E.G.C. Kipling) and 'an astonishingly accurate barometer of Shakespeare's ...

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Poetry Picks of the Year 2014

A breathless hush settled over the basement, as the assembled throng took last gulps of white wine, rehearsed speeches in their heads (not that they thought they were going to win, but just in case, just in case), or ...

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Pickles in Literature: What We Have Learnt

  • ‘Neither fish, nor fowl, nor good Red Herring’ is an expression long overdue a revival. It might be valuable for books that can’t decide which section they belong in, like Simon Gough’s novel-cum-travel ...
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The London Review Bookshop moves to Minecraft

The London Review Bookshop has announced today that it will be opening a franchise in the popular block manipulation world of Minecraft. The surprise move followed the LRB Hackday, or Company Jaffabout, held in the ...

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Ten Perfect Short Stories

In advance of our Book of the Week on Friday (NO SPOILERS), here’s a contentious list of the ten greatest short stories in English. It’s especially contentious because I’ve got particularly firm criteria for what ...

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Which literary father are you?

Find out with our Father's Day quiz!

1) Some fathers never get out of their armchairs; others can’t be extracted from their sheds. Where are your children most likely to find you?

a) There, on your sad height

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The Forward Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Forward Prize for Poetry has been announced, accompanied by much tiresome doomsaying from Jeremy Paxman and the Guardian. ‘[Paxman’s] words come as official figures show a decline in poetry ...

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In the Neighbourhood: Pied Bull Yard

The name of Pied Bull Yard, the hidden court behind the London Review Bookshop, cannot be traced back earlier than 1827, we learn from the indomitable Londonist. An earlier map of 1746 gives it as ‘Stable Yard’, ...

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Charles James Fox

Weather and the Northern Line permitting, in the morning I like to get off the tube at Euston and walk the last mile into work. The back way into the bookshop (through the hidden cut into Pied Bull Court) takes me along ...

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Patchwork Horse

To celebrate the Chinese Year of the Horse, a composite horse made up of quotations from poets born in the Year of the Horse:

I’m dreadf’lly concerned for Matilda,
Who seems to believe she’s a horse,
a stuffed ...

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Sinéad Morrissey wins the Eliot!

Congratulations to Sinéad Morrissey, whose fifth collection, Parallax, was last night awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. It’s well-deserved; the book is fantastic, a favourite among the bookshop staff for its ...

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A question about book design

Looking through our Biography section on a whim, I noticed something odd about cover photos. It’s fairly common for the subject of the biography to be facing straight forward; equally, there’s plenty of photos where ...

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John's Christmas Wishlist

Something to read in the bath on Boxing Day: How had I not come across E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels before? They look incredible: two scheming provincial ladies battling over the minutiae of village politics. ...

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A Decade of Bestsellers: Journey By Moonlight

Mihály, the hero of Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight, ought to be one of the most frustrating characters in literature; vacillating, weak-willed and constantly misjudging the situation, he blunders from one ...

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