Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand book shops and book dealers. The section from Leicester Square Underground to Cambridge Circus is home to specialist bookshops, and more general second-hand and antiquarian shops such as Quinto Bookshop, Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books. Most of these shops are located on the ground floor of a block he book dealers, who felt that they were providing a valuable service and contributing to the unique character of the area, and should not be treated in this way by a not-for-profit body. The association's counter-argument was that if the booksellers did not pay a market rent they were being subsidised by its low-income tenants. The booksellers attracted considerable public support and a reduced rent increase was imposed. Several of the bookshops closed nonetheless, including Silver Moon, reputedly Europe’s largest women’s interest bookshop, which became part of Foyles. Other shops closed more recently, Zwemmers art bookshop, Shipley the art bookshop in December 2008 and Murder One in 2009. Smaller second-hand and specialist antiquarian bookshops can be found on the adjoining Cecil Court.
The northern section between Cambridge Circus and Oxford Street includes more generalist bookshops such as the venerable Foyles A long-standing correspondence between New York City based author Helene Hanff and the staff of a bookshop on the street, Marks & Co., was the inspiration for the book 84, Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a film in 1987 starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. 84 Charing Cross Road, located just north of Cambridge Circus, has not been a bookshop for many years; at street level it is now a restaurant (entered round the corner in Cambridge Circus), but the upper levels of the building remain as originally constructed. A small brass plaque, noted by Hanff in her book "Q's Legacy", remains on the stone pilaster facing Charing Cross Road.
What is now Charing Cross road was originally two narrow streets in the West End, Crown Street and Castle Street. The development of Regent Street Street (parallel to the west) in the mid-18th century coincided with not only the building up of great fields west of the area but also Westminster Bridge which was built as central London and the wider estuary's second bridge after more than a century of pressure, in 1750.
These pressures therefore congested the north-south axis of the inner West End almost as much as the relieved London Bridge area. Specifically a major increase in traffic occurred around Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross and Oxford Street, much of it destined from/to Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury and nearby routes to all northerly directions.