By Theerada Moonsiri (She/her/hers)
Time to stock your TBR shelves. Discover your next read at these Glasgow’s independent bookshops!
Named the cultural and creative centre of the United Kingdom by the European Commission (EU), Glasgow does live up to the hype as a rich source of inspiration. From world-class museums, emerging galleries, legendary theatres to public libraries, Scotland’s largest city is bustling with creativity, spirit, and passion. There’s always something for everyone in Glasgow, and for book lovers, too.
Glasgow is home to quite a number of indie bookshops, from a hidden gem in an often-overlooked alley to a queer and LGBT bookshop that welcomes all. Whether you’re looking for a new read or trying to get out of a reading slump (we feel you), we’ve got you covered with the seven wonders of Glasgow’s independent bookstores that you won’t ‘readgret’ dropping by!
Situated on the West End’s hustle-and-bustle Great Western Road, Caledonia Books is a family-run second-hand bookshop that has been here in and with Glasgow through thick and thin since first established in 1986. This old-but-not-obsolete bookshop prides itself on its extensive collection of rare finds, antiquarian titles, and out-of-print books. Once you step through the green door, you will feel as if you’ve just been Floo-powdered to Flourish and Blotts in Harry Potter. The vibes is definitely there.
The ground floor houses decent, impressive shelves of classic fiction books (loads of Penguin books at a bargain here) and a corner devoted to books by Scottish authors. The basement sees stacks and stacks of travel books, references, play scripts, and many more. And, oh yes, we’re absolutely obsessed with a special shelf dedicated to those gorgeously designed hardcovers by The Folio Society.
483 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8HL
It was a cold, rainy day (it’s Glasgow, after all) when I discovered Thistle Books, an absolute hidden gem humbly tucked away in such a random alley off Otago Street in the West End. Don’t let the black door and a complete absence of window display throw you off because a whole new world awaits just across the threshold.
Thistle Books has been writing its own history in Glasgow since it first started in 1998. The cool-calm-and-collected second-hand bookshop will ply you with well-organised sections of classic, contemporary, and today’s fiction books (I got a used-like-new copy of Sally Rooney’s Normal People here) as well as children’s books, history books, and Scottish literature. That one definite wow factor here must be an extensive collection of standard instrumental repertoires and sheet music for many instruments. This is where literary meets melody, indeed.
55 Otago St, Glasgow G12 8PQ
Sat inside the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, this one is relatively small yet hard to miss. Often referred to as a specialist art bookshop, Aye-Aye Books devotes its cubbyhole space to a wide variety of books, from books about photography, architecture, art history, cultural theory, film, and all things noise, sound, and field recording.
What we love about Aye-Aye Books is its selection of short-run, self-published zines that help promote local artists’ works. In an interview with Brick: A Literary Journals, Martin Vincent, a co-owner of Aye-Aye Books, said that “Aye-Aye Books is not about retail, it’s about practice and content, it is totally an art project.”
350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD
Now, now, you ultimate book lovers, don’t tell us that you never once catch yourself jotting down a poem or plotting a short story. People who love to read often aspire to write, and Good Press comes into existence just for that very reason. Every single publication here, which mainly focuses on visual arts and writing, is either self-published or produced by a small, independent organisation, e.g., gallery, press, and group.
This bright, sky blue-painted establishment is nestled shoulder to shoulder with other art-oriented neighbours on St. Andrew Street. We wholeheartedly love Good Press’ open submission policy because anyone can submit their publication like zines or pamphlets—the bookshop “will literally stock anything, honestly.” Good Press also runs The Paper, its very own monthly newsletter printed using a risograph machine and Good Press Monthly Subscription that delivers curated publications to your door every month. This is definitely a place that will never cease to inspire readers and aspiring writers alike.
32 St. Andrews St, Glasgow G1 5PD
I respect when people fiercely stand their ground, and Calton Books does just that. Operated by volunteers since 2012, this self-proclaimed ‘the best wee radical bookshop in the world’ specialises in left-wing and progressive books, especially about Anti-Fascist, Spanish Civil War, Feminist, and Republican Socialist.
Apart from a vast collection of radical books, either new or second-hand, Calton Books designs and produces badges, t-shirts, and flags to “promote local working class history of the type you don’t learn about in school.” And just to put it out here, this is one of the friendliest bookshops I’ve set our foot in so far.
159 London Rd, Glasgow G1 5BX
Category Is Books
I kindly ask you to read the following sentence in Pray Tell’s voice, DO IT. It’s giving us queer literature, it’s giving us LGBTQIA+ history, it’s giving us all things genderqueer, and the Category is Books. (Now you can read in your own voice.) Started by Charlotte and Fionn Duffy-Scott (both they/them) in 2018, this queer bookshop in Govanhill stocks its shelves with creative, witty ‘categories’ of new and pre-loved books. Think ‘books with maps at the beginning’ and ‘poetry is not a luxury’ for a start.
While Category is Books showcases a wide range of titles from mass publishing houses to small, independent publishers, the non-fiction section covering issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community is without any doubt a perfect place to explore history and culture beyond gender binary. The sweetest thing about Category is Books must be the Pay It Forward book fund that helps provide access to books for those in need. And all are welcome here!
34 Allison St, Glasgow G42 8NN
Young’s Interesting Books
Last but not least, this small-but-mighty bookshop in Glasgow’s South Side speaks volumes about its namesake. Been running for over 10 years, Young’s Interesting Books utilises its small space to the finest.
Here you will find second-hand classic and today’s fiction titles mostly in paperbacks (I found Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings here!) as well as books about Scottish history, philosophy, movies, music, etc. And I literally gasp at how impressive the sci-fi section is. This might be the place where you stumble upon some rare finds that make a great gift.
18 Skirving St, Shawlands, Glasgow G41 3AB