Today is World Book Day, when the public is encouraged to engage with books and seek out new reading experiences. Manchester’s literary heritage, stretching from Thomas de Quincey and Frances Hodgson Burnett to Howard Jacobson and Jeanette Winterson, has always been marked by a fierce sense of intelligence and independence. So what better time to look at those independent shops in and around the city where you can peruse, purchase and fall in love with their books?
Manchester Book Buyers
Although located in the busy city-centre thoroughfare of Church Street, Manchester Book Buyers is still easily overlooked. The last in the row of market-stalls, its perfunctory name and unsophisticated appearance belie an excellent bookshop. The tiny space is lined with densely-packed shelves, all loaded with the quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore which are the lifeblood of secondhand bookshops. The jumbled-high table of £1 books is also always worth digging around in: the copious Mills & Boon paperbacks often those obscure 1960’s sci-fi originals and little-known crime novels you’ve been seeking out.
Church Street, city centre.
EJ Morton is a dream of a bookshop, so much so that after a visit it can be difficult to believe it’s not some idealised, bygone-era archetype but a real bricks-and-mortar place. Found on a cobbled side-street, the unassuming exterior conceals a generous and busily-stocked space. EJ Mortan is much-frequented and much-beloved by locals, primarily because of their large and well-curated selection of children’s books and because of the staff’s reputation as a knowledgeable and friendly bunch.
6 Warburton Street, Didsbury.
Another charmingly old-fashioned shop, Chorlton Bookshop made preparations in 2014 to close permanently when it was learned a new bar was due to open next door to them. However, after a campaign by passionate Chorlton residents the council ensured the bar found alternative premises and the popular, family-owned bookshop was saved. And it’s not hard to see why locals are so enthusiastic: a warm, welcoming vibe prevails and the stock choices are well-considered and varied (there is, apparently, a sub-section of books about The Fall).
506 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton.
You hear Paramount before you see it. The classical music booming from outdoor speakers echoes down the Shudehill side of the Arndale Centre. For many secondhand bookshops stock can be a big problem: having a regular turnover of books which are of a consistent quality requires a lot of hard work. But somehow Paramount, quite possibly the best bookshop in Manchester and certainly the most eccentric, makes things work. One could quite easily lose a weekend browsing the place: the ceiling-high shelves cover every conceivable category, Manchester’s science fiction heritage is healthily represented, and the extensive comics collection is a geek’s pay-dirt. But it’s the eccentric ad-hoc offers – ‘You’ve spent over £7.50 – that means you get a free pineapple!’ – which make this place a local treasure.
25-27 Shudehill, city centre.
Chapter One is currently the literary talk of the town, which is impressive when you consider that it hasn’t even opened its doors yet. Anyone recently passing by Chatsworth House’s long-unoccupied ground-floor offices in recent weeks will have had a glimpse of the extensive work being done to create a brand new bookshop for the Northern Quarter. And, anyone who’s investigated these things on Twitter, will have witnessed the outpouring of excitement from Manchester’s book-lovers at this news. The shop promises impress with over 4,000 square feet of unique, carefully chosen books, a spacious café and an events space for live readings and book launches. The shop plans to be open for a grand open day on April 1 and all progress can be followed on Twitter.
Chatsworth House, 19 Lever St, Northern Quarter