From Aladdin’s Cave to converted garages: west end book shop guide

Rebecca Corbett

When I was younger, I would go to charity shops with my dad. He would always make a beeline for the books as I would be left wondering why he wasn’t more interested in the clothes. However now, aged 21, I find myself doing the opposite. Walking past the cheap and cheerful clothes, I instead make my way to the bookshelves and begin to tick titles off my reading list and pick up a few others for fun reading. Maybe after three years of a literature degree, I’ve finally accepted my inner bookworm?

As a literature and theatre student I am presented with a list of books every year. Before I can get excited about them, however, a shadow comes over and reminds me of what this will do the old bank account. After three years of avoiding bankruptcy and online purchases, local bookshops have come to my rescue. These five little establishments will help you embrace your inner bookworm, while saving a few pennies in the process.

Voltaire and Rousseau – Otago Lane. This shop is an Aladdin’s cave of books – as you enter, you are hit with a musty smell of print, and all you see are piles and piles of books, some reaching up to the ceiling. Picking one from the pile is a bit like playing Jenga – you have to think strategically to avoid toppling the literary mountain. However, quite often that one book you are looking for happens to be at the very bottom. This is a great place to have a browse. You may not find exactly what you were looking for but you might find something you just really want, perhaps even for 50p.

Caledonia Books – Great Western Road. This is a more organised bookshop with a vast array of novels, non-fiction and maps to choose from, so you will be able to find most books here. The staff here are very helpful, and 9 times out of 10, they will know exactly how to help you find what you need. This traditional old bookshop has a feeling of an old library, and for this reason you will find yourself whispering like a mouse and tiptoeing around the aisles as the staff sit pensively by the fire.

Thistle Books – just off Otago Street. Hidden away in what looks like an old garage lies this beauty of a bookshop. The two men who run it are exceptionally helpful. In addition to their great collection of books, they also have a large selection of sheet music. If music is what you are after, you will be met by a lovely man who will be more than happy to talk to you about music for as long as he can and answer any queries you have.

Charity Shops – all over the place.I  would particularly recommend Shelter on Great Western Road, the Oxfam Bookshop and Cancer Research on Byres Road. A bit of a cliché and slightly more expensive, Oxfam Books have a great selection, a lot of which are donated by students. Prices here will be around £4, which is definitely  bargain. As expected, charity shops are hit or miss – sometimes you will wander in and find everything you need, but other times you will only be able to find Victoria Beckham’s autobiography (to be honest, I would probably buy this) and a bewildering selection of chick lit and science fiction. It’s still worth a look in case you manage to tick a few more books off the reading list and save a few pennies. You’d also be helping a charity which is definitely better than donating to retail companies.

SRC Second Hand Bookshop – John McIntyre Building. This is one of the best places to go for course books. If you go at the beginning of each semester you will be provided with a lot of students’ hand-me-down books. This is also a great place to sell your books if (unlike me) you want to get rid of them. Personally, I am very guilty of keeping all of mine to make myself look more cultured. However, it’s also really good for textbooks and other course specific material that you wouldn’t be able to find in charity shops.


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