Glasgow still mourns the loss of the enormous Borders bookstore on Buchanan Street, a remarkable outlet that fell victim to changing times – and the credit crunch – in 2009. Whether or not Scotland’s biggest Waterstones, plus a collection of second-hand and specialist stores, makes up for the demise of the Borders behemoth, we leave to the book-buying public to judge…
If Comic Book Guy from ‘The Simpsons’ worked in any shop in Glasgow, it would probably be this haven for unashamed comics, graphic novel and associated merchandise freaks in the Merchant City, easily identified by its appropriately bright yellow frontage. Although, in fairness, it’s a lot more welcoming than that comparison perhaps suggests.
Effectively the in-house book and magazine shop at the CCA, Aye-Aye is a pleasure to browse, especially if you’re interested in contemporary arts. Based in the building’s foyer, it offers journals and magazines you won’t find anywhere else in the city, titles ranging from individual artist monographs via critical theory to fiction and poetry, also obscure ‘zines with earnest titles that will bring a smile to the face of any passing satirist.
Up the wild and woolly West End where students roam and people know how to pronounce quinoa, Caledonia Books has been a leading antiquarian and second-hand outlet for nearly 30 years. Top tip: pick up some old hardback fiction here, make the short walk to the Inn Deep bar at 445 Great Western Road, then settle down for the afternoon with a glass of something decent and a good read.
Very much an academic bookshop, but not exclusively so, Smith’s is housed in a University of Glasgow building at the main campus in the city’s West End. Casual shoppers and browsers shouldn’t be put off by the institutional nature of the surroundings – you can still stop by for general fiction, kids’ books, gift items by Cath Kidston or Moleskine, graphic novels and more.
Popularly name-checked as the city’s most characterful second-hand bookshop, Voltaire & Rousseau has been in business since 1972, discreetly situated down a lane off Otago Street in the West End. You can get lost in the literary chaos here for hours, stumbling across anything from yoga manuals to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins or perhaps the collected Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott.
Over five floors, Waterstones' Sauchiehall Street branch is the biggest bookstore in Scotland, structured around a central atrium, and has an in-house café. It’s not so much a bookshop as a lit-retail experience – you can pop in for browse and come out with a Kindle, tote bag, home plumbing guide and a caffeine buzz.
With all the focus in Glasgow on the city centre and West End, it’s good to report that there’s a second-hand outlet down on the Southside, a hop and a skip from Queen’s Park. Launched in 2010, it’s a modest space but given the dearth of decent, wee bookshops south of the Clyde, its persistence is to be applauded. You come here for antiquarian books, art, history, philosophy, Scottish interest titles and – of course – fiction.