Voltaire & Rousseau

Top Ten Bookshops in Glasgow

Voltaire and Rousseau by Neil Scott

With the Aye Write book festival in full swing, we thought it would worth putting together a list of the ten best bookshops in Glasgow. You will be able to flick through old or new — but always resonably priced — books, buy the latest from authors featured in the festival or get out of your comfort zone and read something marvellous and unexpected.

1. Voltaire and Rousseau
The best bookshop in Glasgow is an Aladdin’s Cave of curiosities, with thousands of reasonably priced books piled high in no discernible order. It is fair to say that, whilst you will probably never find what you are looking for, you are almost guaranteed to find three other books that are equally fascinating. The shop consists of two parts, an entrance where everything is -£1 and the main shop where books upon books cover every surface. Located Otago Lane, it is near to Tchai Ovna, a wonderful Czech tea house where you can go to browse your bargains.

2. Caledonia Books
Just around the corner from Voltaire and Rousseau on Great Western Road, Caledonia Books is more orderly, more selective, more predictable, more expensive, but no less fun. Always well-stocked with limited edition art books, literary fiction, books about Scotland, and philosophy, it is a reminder of a more genteel era.

3. Aye Aye
With the demise of the late lamented Borders chain, it is increasingly difficult to find little magazines, thankfully we now have Aye Aye, an art bookshop inside the CCA. It is full of obscure zines and plush catalogues, and is notable as the only Glasgow stockist of the excellent New Escapologist magazine.

4. Panopticon Charity Shop
Glasgow’s charity shops are patchy at best, but this one on Glasgow High Street which was set up to help fund the repairs at the Panopticon Music Hall has somehow managed to avoid the usual collection of bonkbusters and chick lit. It is a lovely place to browse, with proper charity shop prices.

5. Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street
The decline of Waterstones chain is shown by the number of celebrity biographies that litter their shelves. Nevertheless, in the Sauchiehall Street branch there are four floors in which to find a good selection of the latest publications.

6. Biblocafe
Rebelling against the trend of bookshops that have cafes (see Waterstones above), Biblocafe is a cafe that has a bookshop. The selection of books isn’t great, consisting of five year old mass market paperbacks, but the coffee is excellent.

7. Thistle Books/Alba Music
Halfway between Caledonian Books and Voltaire and Rousseau, Thistle Books provides a well-organised array of second-hand books. Whilst it lacks the dizzying variety of the latter and the comprehensiveness of the former, it is still worth a look. Also contains Alba Music, for your sheet music needs.

8. Fopp
Despite being taken over by HMV, Fopp’s buyers still have an eye for the latest hip novel and biography. Originally founded in Glasgow, Fopp now has two stores, the best of which is on Union Street in the city centre.

9. Young’s Interesting Books
The Southside finally gets its own bookshop and it is a self-proclaimedly interesting one. The shelves are a bit sparse (it looks like one middlebrow person’s book collection), but it is a handsome addition to Skirving Street and will doubtless improve with time.

10. Hyndland Bookshop
A fairly predictable array of bourgeois paperbacks can be found in bohemian Hyndland. It is the kind of shop that could be curious, unique and independent, but ends up being a bit bland, due no doubt to the same market forces that forced Lost in Fiction and Borders to close down last year.

Neil Scott


Neil Scott is the designer and creator of Visit Glasgow. He works as a web designer.

23 Responses to “Top Ten Bookshops in Glasgow”

  1. David Robertson says:

    The Oxfam bookshop at the top end of Byres road (just a few doors down from Fopp’s west-end store) is brilliant for non-fiction books and has a great range of fantasy as well. The books are all in good condition and reasonably priced, the proceeds from sales also goes to charity. You can even hand the books back in once youre done reading them.

  2. Kate Hollywood says:

    Hi, I moved to Hyndland not that long ago, and Hyndland Bookshop has come on in leaps and bounds in that time.They don’t have a huge stock, but will order any book for you, and the proprietors are unfailing in their quest to source a title. There are classic DVDs and cards also for sale and the addition of this shop completes the self contained village feel that Hyndland enjoys.


  3. Jenne Gray says:

    Well, I must be bourgeois and bland! I LIKE the Hyndland Bookshop! I went in today to buy a card and a book. I came out with a card, 2 books and a DVD. (And one of the books and the DVD are fairly subversive – but that would probably be in a bourgeois and bland sort of way! Apologies for the sarcasm!) I have used the shop since its opening and have admired the way the owners have moved with the times and the demands of their customers, without losing sight of their purpose. I know people who travel to this shop to prder books. And this in the days onf on line shopping! They must be doing something right – because they are still there!

  4. James says:

    I’ve lived in Glasgow for a number of yers now and am particularly interested in books relating to Glasgow. Particularly old Glasgow. Surprisingly, I discovered that WHSmith, Sauchiehall Street has a great range of Glasgow titles. Staff have been really helpful and have even been open to suggestions about titles they should stock and have found on later visits that they have ended up stocking them on the shelves.

  5. deadhead67 says:

    if thats the top ten then glasgow is shit for bookshops

  6. I have a friend originally from Glasgow trying to get her new book ( infact her first book) available in Glasgow. The book is available around the world and selling well in Australia.
    The book offers immersion in romance, travel, musical drama and true love.
    This enduring story unwraps a gift of unforgettable characters deep and passionate yet heart warmingly rich and a plot adding hugely to its depth and drama decorated in the riches of its aristocratic past where readers are immediately immersed in the world of the Logan family who will always be at the heart of the story.
    Great read and a good buy for Christmas.

  7. CJC says:

    I really like Thistle books (no.7 on the list) – extensive stock, especially of English translations of foreign lit. I can’t argue with the random excitement of V&R at no.1; these two shops make a great balance as they are 1 min’s walk away from one another and one is a chaotic treasure trove while the other is organised but still quite comprehensive.

    Not a fan of Oxfam on Byres rd – expensive, always a poor fiction stock, and arguably also squeezing these other independents out of business (as Oxfam pay no/low rent at a high profile location). And no, I am not a competing owner/someone with a vested interest – I just don’t want to lose the other west end bookshops!

  8. Chris K says:

    Voltaire and Rousseau
    Why on earth is this place listed as No.1. It is awful, scruffy and full of manky cat and its hairs. None of the books are cared for, simply dumped anywhere in piles.
    It’s vicinity to an unusual tea house is it’s only attraction, whilst being irrelevant to books!

    Both Caledonia Books and Alba music (which isn’t even listed here!) both nearby and are far better at caring for the humble book!

  9. Kevin O Connell says:

    Alba music is more that a mere adjunct to Thistle. It is the best source of second hand music scores that I have come across anywhere in the UK or Ireland. I never spend less than 90 minutes in it.

  10. Michele says:

    It is quite surprising and sad that Glasgow has such a limited number of bookshops, especially independent ones. Not sure why this is as other similarly sized cities show much more variety. As of August 2014, there will be one more bookshop in town (and I am not claiming it will make the top ten list): It is an English and foreign language bookshop for children in Partick (52 Keith Court, G11 6QW)with new and pre-loved books. We also run language classes on site and you can have a coffee and snack there too. I do hope we can add to the world of books and maybe see you there some time.

  11. D Rixson says:

    We opened in November 2011!

  12. […] want independent bookshops, high street chain stores, new or second hand books, you will find it here. Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music and has produced many artists that now tour the global […]

  13. […] want independent bookshops, high street chain stores, new or second hand books, you will find it here. Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music and has produced many artists that now tour the global […]

  14. carrerclan says:

    hi, this post is a bit dated so I wonder if someone might still respond!
    Being in the book business myself (albeit not in Scotland) I am keen to continue to support independant book stores…
    As such while searchimg an indie in greater Glasgow I was utterly dismayed to find that many of those I frequented in the past have recently shut their doors…Can anyone tell me if Hyndland bookshop still exists?
    Recession, changing times for the book are a couple of many explamations but it saddens me that while in many other UK towns and cities quality independants are still to be found in my home city there are virtually none left!
    Can anyone help me locate an indie anywhere from Helensburgh to Glasgow to Ayr…where I could send my Dad to pick up a book I order for him…
    of course it would be easier to go to that big A but surely far less joy attached to the experience not to mention the lack of coffee houses in the vicinity!
    In the hope that someone can help within next 36 hrs!

  15. Hugh Harkin says:

    Voltaire & Whatjamacallit has the best range of stock and some bargains to be had…the books grow organically, appearing overnight like Tibetan strawberries.

  16. Alistair Deayton says:

    Oswald Street bookshop has a great selection of (new, not second-hand) Scottish books and children’s books. It is failry new and run by chap cllaed Denis who used to have a shop in Mallaig. It is very good on transport books, wiht many unusual railway and shipping titles.
    In the wider area, Bookpoint in Dunoon has a wiode selcton of books and a small cafe area with home-made cake and scones

  17. henry doyle says:

    The top two are
    voltaire and rousseau in otago lane and caledoniabooks in the great western road
    if you cant get what you want here i doubt you will have any success anywhere

  18. RBB says:

    To the poster above, the bookshop on Byres Road pays an enormous amount of rent. You may be right about everything else, although I might blame overall decline in book sales before any individual book store for shuttering bookshops, but that point is factually inaccurate.

  19. Fraser says:

    The Oxfam bookshop on Byres Road is so expensive that in spite of cultivating a very severe book addiction I’ve simply stopped going there. The pricing is humourlessy based on the most expensive offerings on Amazon, which is insane as bookshops should be trying to outgame Amazon and not channeling customers its way.

  20. Marie McIntosh says:

    A couple of years ago a friend told me about the old book shops in Glasgow. It looks as if she was talking about the first bookshop, which has books higgledy, piggledy. I’m afraid i’m in a wheelchair, but if the shop could put it away, I can still walk about your shop as long as I could hold on to your tables, shelves etc. See you when the weather picks up.

  21. Tony says:

    One of the best bookshops in Glasgow that unfortunately closed down was in Virginia Galleries round the corner from marks and Spenser in argyle street. Such a brilliant place to find obscure titles from sci fi and fantasy and horror. Cheap prices. Used to have that distinctive musky aroma that makes a second hand book store authentic. Douglas who used to work there was a very friendly and chatty guy. Such a shame it closed down. Great memories.

  22. Liam Leddy says:

    I bet they`re all just fabulous. Especially if they sell my books
    Liam Leddy

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