Bookshops in Manchester
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Independent Bookshops in Central Manchester

Well, ladies and gents, this is going to be a bit of a change from our usual ‘independent bookshops’ posts because to be honest, I was a little disappointed – a first for me!

I’m as surprised as you are, possibly more so because I actually braved Storm Dennis for this. I had a few bookshops lined up in central Manchester, namely Chapter One, Manchester Book Buyers, and Paramount Books. I did stumble upon a couple of others, but we’ll talk about those later. Onwards.

Chapter One

This is going to be quick, kids. While this place used to be a bookshop and cafe, it seems they’ve retained the bookshop theme without actually selling books. So this bookshop…is not a bookshop.

It’s weird, and pretty confusing given that their website, Instagram, and Google listing suggest that they do sell books. It literally says ‘independent bookshop’ on their bio.

Call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t come to terms with the fact that books are purely decorative at this place now. That being said, it really is a pretty cafe (great for the ‘gram?) and they do a cracking soy cappuccino. This seems like a lovely place to get work done or study for your next exam – I just think they need to change their name/Google listing to avoid this exact situation.

Manchester Book Buyers

I was excited about this right until I walked into the little nook nestled quite inconspicuously on bustling Church Street. I’m the kind of person who disapproved of dog-earing pages and can’t bear to break spines, so you can imagine how jarring it was when I saw mountains of books piled on top of each other with little to no care.

Covers were bent backwards over themselves, pages squashed into accordion look-a-likes under the weight of their fellow sufferers, and it was near impossible to actually find anything in the mess of it all. Not for me personally, but if you’re in the market for a cheap read and don’t mind the wear and tear, this’ll suit you just fine.

Paramount Books

This place was very promising at first glance, and I really liked the quirky fact that you could hear music playing from here before you even arrived. There are a few bits about this place that left me less than interested in actually buying a book, though.

The proprietor seems to have an issue with mobile phones. I spotted no fewer than five signs ordering customers to SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE! With no reason whatsoever disclosed. Like…why? Is this an aeroplane? Will I get kicked out? Was it made illegal in the 10 seconds before I got here? Not a great first impression, primarily because I don’t like being told what to do.

Magma

I stumbled across Magma while having a bit of a wander. It’s one of those artsy-looking bookshops that have quite a limited range of actual books, a huge range of niche magazines, and zines that make me ask the question “who on earth is buying these?”

The section I found particularly alienating here was the zine section – which I’m normally pretty excited about. One of the zines for sale was a collection of screenshots from the Simpsons, printed on coloured paper, and stapled together. No writing. No real substance. Just laziness masquerading as something so profoundly avant-garde that us plebs can’t possibly ‘get’ it.

Anywhere Out of the World

This one was promising, but my excitement faded quickly. There was a single wall of shelves – with a decent range of decently priced second-hand books on them. A table with some ‘reads of the month’ laid out. A decorative old cash register. And that’s about it.

Nowhere to sit in this rather dimly-lit space. No clear indication of who actually works there and who’s come to say ‘hi’ to their friend at work. No acknowledgement from staff when you walk in as a now-befuddled customer. Just…odd. But this one definitely has a lot of potential as a bookshop – it just needs warming up a little, and better customer experience.

The John Rylands Library

Shout-out to my friend Nicola for letting me know this place exists. This made up for the strange disappointment I felt after visiting all the independent shops in a big way. Before you even enter the building, you’ll notice its absolutely stunning architecture; it’s like something out of your favourite Harry Potter book (mine’s Prisoner of Azkaban).

The John Rylands Library is a neo-Gothic beauty that was founded in 1900 by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands – get this – in memory of her late husband. Fast forward to today, and the building now forms part of the University of Manchester and regularly holds exhibitions showcasing everything from illuminated manuscripts to a piece of papyrus said to be the earliest existing copy of the Old Testament.

The library is free to enter, and a real pleasure to walk through and experience as a bookworm. A definite must-see if you’re in central Manchester.


Was I just having an off-day with the bookshops? Are there any I missed that would have made my day? What about bookshops in Greater Manchester? Hit me up in the comments, guys!

-Kelly

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independent bookshops in Edinburgh
Books, Travel

Independent Bookshops in Edinburgh

I’ll level with you – I wanted to upload this post before 2020, but you know what the festive season is like. It’s hard to write coherent sentences when you’ve eaten so many pigs in blankets you’re on the verge of becoming one. But here we are, refreshed and ready for a whole new year of books and literary gallivanting.

So a while back I asked the lovely people on my bookstagram to recommend their favourite independent bookshops in Edinburgh, and they delivered. I was going to be there anyway to see its famous Christmas Market for the first time, and there is literally always time to visit bookshops. ALWAYS.

Armchair Books

Address: 72-74 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE

This hidden gem feels like something straight out of Harry Potter’s wizarding world. It’s a cosy little nook on city’s West Port, under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Castle.

Every spare inch of space is bursting with books, from beautiful antiquarian tomes to recent bestsellers and everything in between. The range of genres here is unlike any other second hand bookshop I’ve visited so far, so this small, family-run business with that old book smell we all love is a (well-priced) must-visit.

Armchair Books is the kind of place where you don’t have to whisper, but there’s a weird sense of reverence for the sheer volume of literature under its roof. Also they sell very cute tote bags.

Topping & Company

Address:  2 Blenheim Pl, Edinburgh EH7 5JH

It was my first ever visit to Topping & Company, one of the bookshops recommended by you guys on IG (thank you!). They’ve got more shops in Bath, Ely, and St. Andrew’s and to be honest, I might just beg them to open up in Newcastle too.

As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice how (a) warm and welcoming and (b) nicely laid-out the shop is. There’s a HUGE range of books nestled politely in their pristine shelves, waiting to be picked up so they can make your acquaintance and charm you into taking them home. The shelves stand tall and stacked with beautiful books, so much so that they’ve got those cute shelf-ladders dotted around. My inner Belle felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

While I was browsing, a lovely bookseller came over to ask me if I’d like anything to drink while I looked around. Yes, they serve pots of coffee on the house and show you to one of the perfectly placed tables so you can sit comfortably while you debate whether or not you really need all eight books. Don’t just take my money, take my hand in marriage. Consider me wooed.

But they’re not just bringers of much-needed caffeine; they’re also super knowledgeable about basically any book you pick up and will probably have a recommendation or two for you based on what’s in your hands at check out.

Golden Hare Books

Address: 68 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AQ

One of the most popular recommendations on my list, Golden Hare Books was actually voted Independent Bookshop of the Year in the UK and Ireland in 2019!

Visually, the shop is stunning; they’ve actually designed the shop in such a way that you can see as many outward-facing books as possible while you browse – a welcome fact that plays on your bookish curiosity. If, like me, you do judge a book by its cover, this is ideal. But don’t take my word for it – take a look:

And if that’s not enough fabulousness for you, the good people there also run a book subscription box. Yep. Books. Delivered. To your door. Or your loved one’s door, whatever you fancy. Very pleasing.

Lighthouse Books

Address: 43-45 W Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DB

Another of your kind recommendations! Lighthouse Books specialises in curating and selling work by non-mainstream , marginalised, and political voices from all over the world. They also have dogs. Need I say more?

This cosy little bookshop will have you feeling right at home as soon as you walk in. Speaking of homes, they also have a brand-spanking-new Writer in Residence programme that’s definitely worth a look if you’re a wordsmith looking to sharpen your skills or just engage with a tight-knit community of readers and writers.

The Portobello Bookshop

Address: 46 Portobello High St, Edinburgh EH15 1DA

Given that Edinburgh has such a strong presence when it comes to indie bookshops, I was very surprised to find out that Portobello didn’t have its own place until very recently. Enter, The Portobello Bookshop.

This beautiful bookshop made its home in what used to be a fishing tackle shop – fitting, considering the location. Known for its warm, contemporary look and a layout that really lends itself to a leisurely browse of the many books on offer, you could easily spend hours lost in this corner of the city. And just in case you’re not familiar with Portobello…

Here’s what the sunset looks like! Picture yourself breaking into your latest book haul with this as a backdrop. Not too bad, eh?

The Edinburgh Bookshop

Address: 145-147, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DP

We’ve got another award winner in our midst, ladies and gentlemen. The Edinburgh Bookshop (I do love a simple name) was named Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year 2018, and was sweetly described by The Guardian as ‘the kind of bookshop we’d all like to have in our neighbourhood’.

The Edinburgh Bookshop is run by a smiley team with a load of experience in the industry under their belts, so if you’ve got questions or just need a recommendation for your next read, they’re always more than happy to help!

McNaughtan’s Bookshop

Address: 3a, 4a Haddington Pl, Edinburgh EH7 4AE

This one’s a little different from the rest of the list! McNaughtan’s Bookshop first opened its doors in 1957 and specialises in rare, collectible, and second-hand books.

They also have a gallery for you to enjoy, where you’ll also find a quirky mix of newer publications and second-hand typewriters for sale. Like I said, a little something different.

Tills Bookshop

Address: 1 Hope Park Cres, Edinburgh EH8 9NA

I stumbled upon Tills Bookshop completely by accident, during a taxi ride into town one night. Am I always on the lookout for bookshops like some sort of excitable meerkat? Yes.

I mean come on. They have a working fireplace. Imagine rushing in on a blustery day, with winter biting at your heels. Walk in. Browse. Warm up. Pick up a few books you might want to buy. Hang out and read with the sound of a crackling fire punctuating the words on the page.

So there you go, my book-obsessed friends. A quick little roundup of independent bookshops in Edinburgh; if I’ve left any out, tell me about it in a comment! The more the merrier.

-Kelly

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what is books are my bag
Books

Books are my bag: what you need to know

So here’s the thing. A few years ago—a fair few more than I’d care to admit right now—I learnt about Books Are My Bag thanks to boss booktuber Leena Norms. This year, I can finally participate. I’m excited. And I want you to get excited too, so here’s a quick overview of it all.

What’s ‘Books Are My Bag’ about?

Once upon a time (2013 to be precise) the Booksellers Association created a clever campaign to celebrate magical places all over the UK. These places are your friendly neighbourhood bookshops. It’s all about supporting your local booksellers and appreciating every aspect of the book. From the beautiful cover art in front of you to delightful window displays, writers, editors, printer, marketers, and passionate booksellers—we’re here to celebrate it all, with each bookshop serving as a little private party just for you. TL;DR: it’s all about encouraging people to buy books in physical bookshops. Sounds good, right? Right.

With online retailers effectively taking the rug out from under brick-and-mortar shops, the overall aim of the campaign is to encourage readers all over the country to buy books locally. By doing that you’ll be feeding your (arguably healthy) addiction to books while supporting local businesses and helping to create jobs.

Oh, and your chances of stumbling upon a title you’ve never even heard of increase dramatically when you shop the old-fashioned way. Amazon can make all the (paid) suggestions it likes—nothing beats a real-life recommendation from someone who really loves books, or being drawn to a stunning cover in a genre that you might not have considered otherwise. BAMB is made up of a couple of ‘smaller’ events:

  • The BAMB Readers Awards, where you can vote for your favourite fresh-pressed reads of the year, and nominate something for the Readers’ Choice Award (anything, be it newly published or classic).
  • Bookshop Day (5th October 2019), a day for you to go out, explore bookshops, and do some guilt-free book shopping.
  • Independent Bookshop Week: this week of bookbug fun is made up of fabulous things like book crawls, author signings, reading groups, storytelling sessions, literary lunches and the like. Each shop does its own thing!
    • Save the date: Independent Bookshop Week 2020 = 20 – 27 June. 

Bookshops in Newcastle upon Tyne

I’ve been living in Newcastle for over two years now, but I’ve got to admit that finding indie bookshops to put on this list was a bit of a struggle. If you know any, leave a comment – I’d love to build up a list of bookshops big and small to share with you guys. Anyway, here’s where you can go to celebrate #BookshopDay this Saturday and enjoy some bookish self-indulgence:

Independent Bookshops in North East England

There are a few more bookshops I wanted to mention based on my own experience and my friends’ recommendations. They’re just a metro or train ride away, so I thought I’d pop them in here and add to the list as they come:

So that’s that. Books are my bag. They very much are. Follow my shenanigans on Instagram, and let me know if you’ve got any bookshops you think should be on my list! My bank balance won’t thank you, but I definitely will.

-Kelly

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