It was a sad day for Brummie bookworms when the city centre’s last independent bookshop – Readers World in Digbeth – closed its doors for the final time late last year.
It may have been small, the customer service couldn't exactly be described as first rate and some of those vintage ‘gentleman’s magazines’ they stocked were of dubious literary merit – but the place had an undeniable ambience.
Of course, you can still buy your books from a high street chain, a local charity shop or an online retailer. But nothing quite matches the sights, sounds and (let’s face it) smells of a dedicated second-hand book shop.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of great destinations in the Midlands for those with a weakness for papery old tomes and musty aromas. Here are just a few of our favourites:
This friendly little independent bookshop is hidden away in Walsall and well worth a visit, particularly if you’re into sci-fi, horror and fantasy.
Southcart Books, 20 Lower Hall Lane, Walsall
What's inside Wolverhampton Books and Collectibles is random, to say the least. Alongside a large selection of books and comics, sits WW2 military paraphernalia, 1970s Starsky and Hutch magazines and mint condition Star Trek View-Master disks (remember those?).
Wolverhampton Books and Collectibles, 19 Victoria Street, Wolverhampton
Lichfield’s museum dedicated to famed literary figure Samuel Johnson is in the Grade 1 listed building, which was Johnson’s home for the first 27 years of his life.
The museum features a small bookstore, specialising in history, architecture and – of course – the dictionary-inventing local lad himself. Admission is free.
The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Bookshop, Breadmarket Street, Lichfield
In Polesworth (just outside Tamworth) you’ll find G. & J. Chesters, a large antiquarian bookshop with an emphasis on academic texts and antique maps.
The store stocks a ridiculous number of books (over 45,000, apparently) and across its two floors and nine rooms you’ll find them stacked from floor to ceiling and, occasionally, double parked.
G. & J. Chesters, 14 Market Street, Polesworth
Now, this place is somewhere special. At the end of a long country lane just outside Bedworth (near Coventry) you’ll find the largest second-hand bookshop in the Midlands, cunningly disguised as some old farm buildings.
Astley Book Farm sells a staggering selection of second-hand books. Plus, if you’re feeling both peckish and bookish, there’s a coffee shop selling some delicious (and reasonably priced) cakes too.
Admittedly, it’s a bit of a trek to get there, but if you’ve got a passion for books, cakes or both then it really is worth the effort.
Astley Book Farm, Astley Lane, Bedworth
The Malvern Bookshop, Abbey Road, Great Malvern
The Malvern Hills are a regular destination for Brummies eager to stretch their legs and take their North Face jackets out for a spin.
Malvern is also a great place for bookshops, including the community owned Malvern Book Cooperative and Books for Amnesty (an Amnesty International charity bookshop that, unsurprisingly, has a well-stocked human rights section).
The quirkiest of the bunch is The Malvern Bookshop, which has been trading since 1954. With a wide range of books spread over two floors and five rooms, it’s everything you could ever want from a second-hand book store.
The Malvern Bookshop, 7 Abbey Road, Malvern
Know any other purveyors of pre-loved printed material that deserve a mention on Time Out? Let us know in the comments below.
Alternatively, take a look at some of Birmingham's best comic book and collectible stores.