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.
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.
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.