It’s September, officially the beginning of autumn, and perhaps unofficially the time of year when book spines are re-cracked, and the latest generation of incoming students begin to build fresh to-be-read piles for new lectures and classes. In Scotland especially, we’re lucky enough to have an increasingly diverse range of independent bookshops, both in major cities and across more rural areas. To help you out this year, we’ve put together a list of our current favourites across Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee, Paisley, and Glasgow.
For the Auld Reekies among us, nestled on Haddington Place is Typewronger Books, Edinburgh’s smallest bookshop (and Scotland’s only typewriter repair shop). Sellers of new books alongside a gorgeous collection of unique zines and material from indie publishers, Typewronger is a small but mighty hidden gem for Edinburgh’s reading community to explore.
Argonaut Books, at the foot of newly, greatfuly tramworks free Leith Walk, is a lovely space to spend time in the evenings for a game night/for one of their many book clubs or workshops. It’s easy-breezy and stacked with books for every need and whim. For those on campus near The Meadows, Tills is one of Edinburgh’s oldest second-hand bookshops and a well-known favourite since 1985. Situated in Edinburgh’s south side, Tills’ cosy interior makes for the perfect break time escape or mid-afternoon procrastination excuse, and their books are affordable, too.
And it wouldn’t be a proper Edinburgh round-up without the much-loved Lighthouse Books. Found on West Nicolson Street, Lighthouse Books is queer-owned, woman-led, and activist in nature, housing over 10,000 titles across radical, left-wing and Scottish politics; intersectional feminism; environmentalism; LGBTQIA+ writing; poetry; and more. Perfect for students, Lighthouse has an effortlessly welcoming environment and all the latest literature you could need.
Moving across the map, Stirling’s Upper Craigs is home to The Book Nook, one of Stirling’s most-loved independent coffee and bookshops. Born as a ‘total pipedream over a boozy lunch’ many years ago, The Book Nook is the brainchild of two former Stirling University students and is intended to be a welcoming, warm spot for people from all stretches of life to relax and read. For lovers of rare or antiquarian books – Stirling Uni History and Classics students, we’re looking at you – Stirling Books on Maxwell Place offers a brilliant array of carefully selected titles, in addition to coffee, WiFi, and comfortable sofas for the optimal reading experience.
For those in the city of the three J’s, head to Dundee’s newest indie bookshop, Book Attic, on Perth Road. There’s a brilliant selection of second-hand books at a bargain price. Small in size but packed full of hand-picked material, with a lovely old-school vibe, browsing the Book Attic makes for a calming escape from cramming or essays that just won’t leave you alone. But books can be distinctly social, too. Founded in 2017, Broughty Ferry’s The Bookhouse believes in reading as a powerful tool of creativity. Stocking material across contemporary and classic genres, this indie bookshop on Gray Street also sports a calendar full of book signings, discussions, and readings, perfect for those looking to make new pals or meet like-minded people in the city.
For those heading off to Glasgow Uni, inside the much-loved CCA lies Aye-Aye Books, stockers of ‘books by and for artists’, including a beautiful selection of zines, magazines, records, cassettes, and journals. Creative, community-orientated, and built on looking to the future, Aye-Aye is an ideal hangout spot for young people looking to spark positive change in the world. Less well-known but one of Glasgow’s biggest literary gems, hidden on Otago Lane, is second-hand bookseller Voltaire and Rousseau Books, just a five-minute walk from the University of Glasgow and Kelvingrove Park. With readers encouraged to walk the many sprawling aisles, Voltaire and Rousseau’s crowning gem has to be their shop cats (try and find a reason to disagree, I dare you).
In the Southside there’s the iconic independent queer bookshop Category Is Books and also Mount Florida Books. Both regularly host events like poetry readings, and are so well-curated that you’re bound to find something to get you out of a reading rut, if you’re in one.
And if you’re ever in ‘Scotland’s largest town’ Paisley, don’t miss out on visiting Abbey Books, an old-time favourite with an intimate ownership history. Found on Wellmeadow Street, Abbey Books is close to the local university, library, and to Paisley Museum. They stock around 40,000 titles, including sheet music, poetry, history, children’s novels, art, music, and drama. Perfect for students across the board who are looking for something different.