Manchester is not renowned as a literary city. There are not the huge libraries/museums of other British cities or the café intelligentsia culture of Paris for example. The city can boast about the John Rylands Library: home to the Rylands papyrus, the oldest New Testament document still intact. John Rylands is in fact very well run spreading over two main buildings (Deansgate and the University Campus building) and operating a number of smaller libraries around The University of Manchester.
But that’s about it for books in Manchester. The Central Library is woefully understocked with regards to fiction and high-street bookstore chains corner the market forcing the consumer to pay high prices for any kind of desirable fiction. Waterstones monopolise the city centre and Borders are to be found in retail parks around the area. It seems that dedicated independent book retailers don’t survive in the city of Manchester.
After discovering Heaven a few weeks ago and exploring the other independent book retailers of Aberdeen I decided to go on a quest, a quest to discover the hidden treasure troves of literature that I felt Manchester must conceal.
What I found was grim: every second-hand bookshop was closed or had disappeared off the streets. Coming to each address picked off the internet, I expected to find a shop front with a Star of David painted on it and the Gestapo watching from a nearby corner. It seemed that second-hand bookshops in Manchester had either suffered the effects of a terrible book-plague or been run out of town, driven away by the coffee-selling conglomerates of the larger book chains.
In an effort to save others the time and effort I’ve expended over the past few weeks, here is my definitive list of surviving second-hand bookshops in the Manchester area (as of September 2008 (Edited December 2009)).
Church Street stall
1 Church Street
0161 834 5964
Open: Monday-Saturday 12pm-4pm
This is little more than a market stall that sells books. It is reliably cheap and has a good selection of general fiction and some non-fiction.
The Little Bookshop & Thanatos Books
6 Mount Street
Closed. The sign outside says that this shop is now only available online at http://www.littlebookshop.net/ which as of 2009 is an empty domain name.
St Margaret’s Chambers, 5 Newton Street
0161 237 3747
Closed to the public. May still deal privately.
113-115 Portland Street
0161 236 7691
Only sells architecture, art, and design books.
Paramount Book Exchange
0161 834 9509
Open on Fridays and Saturdays. Fantastic selection of books, plays, and old comic books. Nice cosy atmosphere: belts out opera music loud enough to hear in the street. Excellent.
The Shudehill Book Centre
0161 839 0376
OK for popular fiction. Mostly a pornographic shop with an atmosphere to match.
1 Oxford Road
0161 272 6060
An impressive selection of cheap textbooks and some high-end fiction at lower prices than Waterstones. Friendly staff too.
E. J. Morton
6 Warburton Street
0161 445 7629
Situated on a nice cobbled street, this is a good independent bookshop. It’s not principally a second-hand shop although it does have some cheap books. Large children’s section.
0161 945 8604
Open: Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm
Brilliant: a haven for book-lovers in Manchester. A huge selection of both fiction and non-fiction, reasonable prices, free road atlas with every purchase, an impressive up-to-date website, and, best of all, it makes book shopping the adventure it should be.