Corona has changed the world. That fact can’t be ignored, much as we might like to. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t believe that the virus exists, or perhaps isn’t the menace that we’re constantly told it is, you have to accept that the world has changed around your beliefs.
Those issues are too big for me to deal with, I just read, write and struggle to get published; but I do know a few things about books, and I figured bookshops are suffering right along with everyone else on the high street.
With that in mind, it can’t hurt sharing a small blog, in the hope of perhaps encouraging a few extra people to visit some real bookshops; before the Amazon rises still further, to wash them all away.
Address: 17 D’Olier Street, Dublin – www.twitter.com/booksupstairs
I love Books Upstairs. It’s in a great location, right by Trinity College, with multiple public transport stops right outside the front door. They’ve a wide selection of genres on offer, both fiction and non-fiction, and it’s a really good place to browse, if you’ve a book/author/genre itching in the back of your mind, that you’re desperate to scratch.
In happier times, they have a nice tea shop there too (alas, currently closed), and the staff have always been lovely, and reasonably knowledgeable about books, on those occasion’s when I’ve posed a question or two over the years.
Books Upstairs just has a charming feel to it, and a shop I always find myself visiting, even when I’m not out looking for books.
Address: Ivy Exchange, Parnell St, Dublin 1, D01 P8C2 – www.twitter.com/chaptersbooks
Ireland’s biggest independent bookstore (so says their website), and they certainly have a large selection of books on offer. Chapters also has the largest second-hand section I can think of in Dublin (likely Ireland), which is well worth browsing around. If you’ve an afternoon to spare, you’re sure to find a gem or two buried among the shelves.
A small personal frustration I have, is that the Fant/SciFi section is a little weak. In such a big store, it’s large enough in size, but always seems to be missing the exact book/author I’m looking for (they always seems to have Book-2 in a series, rather than the initial instalment – Fant/SciFi readers will know what a particular frustration that can be).
Chapters really excels with their discounted new books selection though. There’s always great books at good prices, rather than just the rubbish they’re obviously trying to get clear out.
They have a small ‘Cult’ book section too, which has some cracking books that you might not otherwise think to read (although, sadly, they don’t have ‘The Revolt of the Cockroach People’, which I’ve now spent 22 years looking for).
[A small note here: there’s another bookshop on the same road as Chapters. I have no idea what that shop is called or when it’s open (they seem to be open sometimes and closed at others, without any rhyme or reason to it). If you ever happen to go in there, would you let me know what it’s like.]
The Secret Book & Record Shop
Address: 15 Wicklow St, Dublin 2, D02 C924 – www.twitter.com/secretbookdub
Another shop that I absolutely love, and in no small part because it’s a bit difficult to find. I must have visited ten times, living in Dublin for several months, before I could honestly claim to know the best way to get there – even though the shop is right off one of the biggest shopping streets in Dublin.
The Secret Book and Record Shop is where I head when I know I want to read something, but haven’t the first clue what that is. It’s a small shop, with a small selection, but they don’t seem to stock any bad books. You start browsing and just come across something good to read, even though you never realised you wanted to read that title before, or perhaps had never even heard of the book.
One downside, considering the current COVID restrictions, is that shop has very close walkways, and it’s tough to follow social distancing guidelines.
It’s a great shop though, and I once saw a cat apparently browsing the shelves. There’s something magical about a cat hanging around in a bookshop.
Winding Stair Bookshop
Address: Ormond Quay Lower Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin 1 www.twitter.com/winding_stair
Another smalls bookshop, located right by the River Liffey, where you can sit and have a coffee on a sunny day (if you’re in Dublin on one of those rare occasions).
Winding Stair is a nice shop, but has never been a real favourite of mine, although I couldn’t tell you precisely why. I mainly head there when I’m looking for publications by local writers, or books on Irish interest subjects. They always seem to have local books on sale; one’s that I don’t see in other shops, which is something worthy of respect (Pat Ingoldsby, is a great example of what I mean – if his name rings any bells with you).
They have a restaurant upstairs from the bookshop too. I can’t swear that the food is good, but I’ve always had the feeling that the owners were more focused on that side of the business, so I’d like to hope that it is.
The Last Bookshop
Address: 61 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin, D02 VY17 [they don’t seem to use twitter]
It feels like a proper bookshop as soon as you set foot through the door. Books are piled here and there, the top shelf is unreachable (and I’m 6″4 / 192cm tall), and its as though there isn’t a real plan behind the organisation – books have just been left places, and it’s up to the shopper to deal with that.
It’s a fun place to visit, has (or had – pre-COVID) a lovely little cafe out the back, which is a real hidden gem in Dublin.
The problem with The Last Bookshop, is that’s it’s a long way out of the city centre (when compared with the other shops I’ve listed) and it’s more the sort of shop that you go into on your way past, rather than actively seeking out.
Still, it’s a nice place to visit, but now as I think on it, I can’t ever remember actually buying a book there (I’ve bought coffee/cake many times), which perhaps isn’t a great sign.
That being said, I’ve always been either walking to the city, and not fancied carrying extra books, or on my way home and already overloaded.
Address: 56-58 Dawson St, Dublin 2, D02 XE81 – www.twitter.com/Hodges_Figgis
I think this is the biggest shop on my list (Chapters might be a little bigger – but Hodges & Figgis just feels like it has more books in) and it’s where I head when I haven’t been able to find a particular book in any other shop.
When I’m looking for Fant/SciFi in particular, I head here. They have a large, well-stocked section; probably the best in Dublin. That being said, all the genres on offer have their own large selection, which are well stocked.
I just happen to mention Fant/SciFi because it’s so rare to see such a large section. Too often high-street sellers attach it with their young-adult section, which I’ve always found ridiculous, given that graphic violence/sex occurs more often in Fant/Scifi, than in straight fiction.
I will mention that Hodges Figgis is relatively expensive. Books there nearly always cost more than they do in other shops (especially the Fant/SciFi), but you’re paying for the depth of selection, so I don’t begrudge them. Although it’s always the last shop I visit, after I’ve struck out everywhere else first.
Anyway – that’s my list. If you live in Dublin, or happen to be in Dublin, they’re shops with soul, and great places to support, if you’re looking for a book for yourself, or a present in the run up to Christmas.
[Just a note: I’ve not mentioned any of the countless charity shops I love, but you’ll see them dotted here and there. Some are better than others, but all are worthy of respect/support – although Oxfam actually charge at least as much as the high-street. I’ve also not mentioned the few high-end books shops around Dublin, working on the assumption that if you’re willing to spend €100+ on a book, then you’re going to know where to find them]