The Best Bookshops in the North
August 29, 2014, Article by Richard in Books
The North. To the uneducated, it conjures up images of Kes, of towers belching black smoke into a gravy-flecked sky, of Geoffrey Boycott using an Eccles cake to make a perfect forward defensive.
But of course this is only 90% accurate.
Have a look at these names: Bennett, Brontë, Barker, Bragg, Browning, Burgess – six legendary writers from the north of England and that’s only the bloody Bs. With such a rich literary heritage, it’s no wonder that there is a veritable smorgasbord of brilliant bookshops in the north that deserve to be shouted about.
So, continuing our trawl around this sceptered isle, here – in no particular order – are our favourite bookshops in the north.
Despite being the home of such cultural icons as David Hockney, J. B. Priestley and Zayn from One Direction, Bradford is often cruelly overlooked in the hierarchy of great British cities. But one thing you can’t deny is that it has a bloody brilliant Waterstones. Within the grade-I listed Wool Exchange, it’s a beautiful setting for browsing the huge selection of titles. Good coffee too.
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If you’re on a literary pilgrimage to the picturesque coastal Yorkshire town of Whitby, chances are it’s something to do with that Dracula guy. But once you’ve finished with all that nonsense, make sure you call in and see the amazing books, and staff, at the Whitby Bookshop. Knowledgeable, friendly booksellers who can always recommend something to really sink your teeth into (Bram Stoker is turning in his grave as we speak), they’re a top bunch.
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As a young scamp growing up in Yorkshire, you could often find me out walking my whippet, usually to the pork pie shop. On the way, I’d regularly call in to the Children’s Bookshop in Lindley, a lovely town just outside Huddersfield. I rarely use the word ‘charming’, but it really does apply here. Even if you don’t have anyone to buy children’s books for, it’s worth popping in just to be temporarily transported back to your childhood. And if that sounds soppy or dewy-eyed, sue me.
North East (Rich)
Sometimes a bookshop isn’t just a bookshop. Sometimes it’s a sanctuary, a home from home. Barter books, located in the old Alnwick railway station (there’s a model train that runs around the place for God’s sake!), is just that. It’s one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Europe and the shelves are packed to the rafters with the weird and wonderful tomes. A place to visit and revel in, and then barter for books. In 2000, the owner was looking through an old box of books bought at auction when they discovered a poster from 1939 with the slogan: ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. A phenomenon was born, and merchandisers have spent fourteen years manipulating a beautiful, poised sentiment into prosaic, tawdry old bollocks. Way to go guys!
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A good example of a bookshop embracing the traditonal and innovative with fantastic results. Situated in the sexy market town of Hexham, Cogito Books are strong on events and embracing local writers, and their ‘Reading Treat’ gift for book-lovers (where you are sat down with a cuppa and come away with £75-worth of books selected especially for you) is a wonderful touch.
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Primarily frequented by zomie-like students pawing ineffectually at the door with vodka-soaked fingers, knowing that they have to read Paradise Lost in twenty-five minutes before a class, this branch of Blackwell’s is absolutely top notch (and not just for students). Their regularly updated blog is well worth a read.
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Manchester and Liverpool (Tom and Rich)
With some great events, a deliciously well-stocked (and very reasonable) café, and admirable link ups with local schools, Urmston Bookshop is the place to go if you’re ever wandering approximately six miles southwest of Manchester city centre. A ruddy lovely shop.
Another example of an indie who combines good old-fasioned bookselling with lively events with everyone from Chris Ryan to Benjamin Zephaniah. Oh and they only bloody well sell ice-cream! Go and visit them. We guarantee you’ll leave with a bag of books and a mucky face.
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Linghams was named independent bookseller of the year in 2013 by The Bookseller, and those guys are never wrong. Poetry evenings, a book club, a packed events calendar, a nice coffee bar AND passionate, knowledgable booksellers all combine to make Linghams a real community hub and somewhere that’s a joy to spend your hard earned dollar.
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Are we missing some of the Best Bookshops in the North? Let us know then, for God’s sake: @StareAtBooks