A GG guide to the independent bookstores in Glasgow

Credit: Literary Hub

Ellen Cranston and Emily Hay
Writer and Culture Editor

If you’re looking for a break from the library or an excuse to visit a new area of the city this semester, a trip to one of Glasgow’s many and varied independent bookstores will be sure to hit the spot. Glasgow has inspired and produced some of the most prominent works in Scottish literature, and each independent bookstore in the city is an integral part of that captivating and thriving literary scene. Are you interested in political reads? Marginalised narratives? Second-hand book buying? Then shopping independent is really the way to go. Even if you’re newer to the niche book-buying game, these independent bookstores have a host of owners and dedicated staff who would be happy to chat to you about their interests and help you discover new ones; pointing you in the direction of fantastic new reads you never would have discovered by just scrolling down the Amazon listings.

For every book you buy from an independent, rather than an online retailer or a chain bookstore, you support the extraordinary real people who keep our literary scene innovative and thriving, rather than lining the pockets of big businesses. You support smaller and independent publishers, who publish the overwhelming majority of non-mainstream books and are being squeezed and squeezed by the prevalence of online discount retailers. And perhaps more than anything you support sustainability – buying books second-hand, or supporting smaller print runs from companies who pay their staff and authors more fairly than larger faceless corporations.

So read to discover more – there’s undoubtedly something for everyone to be found in these bookstores, avid radical readers and more casual customers alike.

Calton Books – 159 London Road

Glasgow’s only radical independent bookstore may not be to everyone’s taste, but is certainly a significant space for left-wing individuals. The shop has a concise collection of new and second-hand books focused primarily on the working class and the national struggle, with an undoubtedly socialist slant. Calton Books is definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in Irish and Scottish politics, or anti-fascism, anarchism, feminism, or communism – to name but a few of the “isms” that can be found in the store. In addition to the publications it houses, the shop also has a vast selection of clothing, flags and badges designed by the staff, in line with the political views the store represents. If you won’t be finding yourself in the Trongate any time soon, Calton Books also has a great website where its merchandise is offered at reasonable prices.

Good Press – 32 St. Andrews Street

Good Press formed eight years ago, dedicated to supporting the manufacture, publicity and retailing of both local and international independent publications. The St Andrews Street site is an independent bookstore and gallery combined, run by volunteer designers and publishers that specialise in zines. Good Press runs on open-submissions, and everything housed at their bookstore is either self-published or published by an independent small press. The store also boasts an eclectic selection of t-shirts, totes and prints that add to their reputation of being more than just a bookstore. This unique and progressive space frequently runs artists’ projects, events and small presentations to draw attention to the works they publish. They are often seen collaborating with local talent and artists, rendering the space a truly integral part of the community and its creators.

Aye-Aye Books – 350 Sauchiehall Street

Aye-Aye Books began as a pop-up in the CCA almost a decade ago and has never left. The bookstore houses a range of texts from international independent publishers and displays a variety of books and exhibition catalogues from and about modern Scottish artists. For those after a lighter read, Aye-Aye books also have a notable selection of magazines, journals and pamphlets too. This selection complements the alternative exhibitions and festivals hosted at CCA, wherein the stimulating spaces created by the art and the store enhance one another. Aye-Aye Books and the CCA stand together as a testimony to the amazing spaces in our city that showcase cultural experiences, but also exist in a very delicate balance with the community they provide for – without our support they won’t be able to continue providing this captivating experience.

Voltaire & Rousseau – 14A Otago Lane

Voltaire & Rousseau is something of an institution in the west end, infamous for the chaotic piles of second-hand books occupying every available space in its Otago Lane store. Some of the antique books in cabinets are excruciatingly expensive, especially compared with the majority of the books on the shop floor which are nearly always cheaper than online retailers. While Voltaire & Rousseau is likely to house obscure titles from university reading lists, don’t expect to find them quickly in this store’s unfathomable filing system. Mercifully, the owners have a comprehensive knowledge of their stock and can often help you out. The shop is best experienced at a leisurely pace, so peruse the stacks slowly and experience the real joys to be had in rummaging for and reading second-hand books.

Category Is Books – 34 Allison Street

Category Is Books is a bookstore that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community through its vast selection of books, films, art and comics that rejoice in LGBTQ+ narratives which are otherwise stocked sparsely in larger chain bookstores. The owners regularly host inclusive events in their southside store, from poetry reading groups to LGBTQ+ yoga. The idea of bringing people together sits at the very heart of Category Is Books; the store was created as a response from a community underrepresented in traditional publications and book sales, but has become a safe space that encourages learning and inclusivity in all who visit. It is a testimony to the importance of the independent bookstore in the production and perpetuation of positive change.

Young’s Interesting Books – 18 Skirving Street

The clue is in the name when it comes to Young’s Interesting Books. Young’s stocks an array of books that seemingly change according to whatever intriguing or unique collections the owner can acquire, as well as stocking old favourites and rare, valuable books too. Although small, this eccentric store has tons of personality, shown by its themed window displays and intermittent author nights, not to mention that they’re the base for the Glasgow Sherlock Holmes Society too. This bookstore is one of the few places in the southside that specialises in second-hand books, so head down to support Young’s endeavour to bring unusual reads and a creative space to the Skirving Street community and beyond.