As a literature student, I read a lot of books. Each new semester brings new courses and new required reading, and purchasing brand new books each time is dear. While Amazon and World of Books is cheap and easy, buying second-hand is fun and supports local business. Plus, shops allow you to peruse, to smell and to discover new titles – all experiences lacking online. Each bookshop has its own atmosphere and history, and these Edinburgh bookshops often appear like mazes with wall-to-ceiling books. Edinburgh has many independent bookshops, and if you like books even half as much as I do, then you will love these seven establishments.
Located right off the Grassmarket on West Port, Armchair Books is the first port of call for second-hand books. The entrance is also the fantasy section, and this bookshop is made from the stuff of dreams. Shelves are suspended over the isles and a ladder is tucked away in the only free corner, there is also an entire room dedicated to antique books.
Further up the road from Armchair Books you will find Edinburgh Books, which has a stuffed water buffalo head named Clarence. Dealing in used books and antiques, Edinburgh Books has four rooms and a basement – and plenty of stepladders to help you read and reach the titles on the books on the top shelf.
Located close to both The University of Edinburgh and the Meadows, Tills is perfect for picking up course-books or for some light reading in the park. Impeccably organised and with knowledgeable staff, Tills is small but has plenty of charm to make up for it. There is a particularly good section of fantasy and science fiction books, and the shop will occasionally sell vintage posters.
The Oxfam Bookshop on Nicholson Street is great – it is worth walking by just to look at their window display. This charity book shop has a little bit of every genre along with a good selection of LP records and DVD’s – you are almost guaranteed to find something you will like!
You will find Old Town Bookshop on the picturesque Victoria Street between Grassmarket and George IV bridge. This small shop has an eclectic collection, and specialised in antiquarian books as well as old maps and prints. It is one-of-a-kind, and well worth a visit.
This second-hand bookshop specialises in children’s literature, and you will find some unique hardbacks alongside more modern second-hand novels. There are also plenty of collectables, as well as picture-books for the youngest reader. Keep an eye out for it as you walk down the Royal Mile, as this gem is hidden away on 175 Canongate.
As the oldest second-hand and antiquarian bookshop in Scotland, McNaughtan’s is not to be missed – which you might easily do, seeing as it is located below street level! Specialising in antiquarian books, you can also view the art they have on display as the shop also has a gallery of contemporary art.