It’s great to have a secondhand bookshop binge. My visit this weekend was to Glasgow – the subject of this post – and the other was to Edinburgh, the subject of an upcoming post. I’ve visited most of the bookshops before whenever I’ve been in both cities, and nowadays they’re beginning to determine how I plan my days out.
The first to mention is Oxfam in Hillhead. This bookshop is in the west end of Glasgow near the botanic gardens. Just exit the subway station, turn right, and walk along the Byres Road for about 5 minutes.
As you’d expect from an Oxfam bookshop, it’s well organised and friendly. I spoke with a volunteer who told me about how the shop benefits from occasional donations from academics at the nearby university. Nevertheless, the stock is general and varied. Nevertheless again, another volunteer was in deep discussion with a collector about a couple of items in a rare books case. This added to the ambience generated by what was a surprisingly busy Friday morning. In fact, I had to wait a while to get pictures without including shoppers and making them uneasy.
Nearby to the bookshop is a public library that has a reading gallery where you can peruse your purchases. There’s also a Fopp nearby, that superb CD/DVD/Blu-Ray/Book retailer everybody’s watching to see if its left-field and brainy selections will be affected by its recent acquisition by HMV. Fopp is probably here because Hillhead is a cosmo and well-healed(ish) area. This means you can check out the general charity shops for high quality donations of clothes. It’s also possible to go for a contemporary Glaswegian lunch between bookshops …
My next port of call for the day was Voltaire and Rousseau. This was a ride on the subway to Kelvinbridge. I’ve previously missed the place, so take note that Otago Lane is this left-hand turning as you go down Otago Street …
Everybody asks if you’ve ever been to or are planning to go to this bookshop. It also seems a popular subject for online comments. Maybe this is the Marmite of secondhand bookshops in the city? When I was there, one visitor told their companion that they were overwhelmed by information. Another exclaimed ‘I’m too big for this shop!’ I also found the disorder difficult to cope with.
Nothing took my fancy on the day. Yet it appears to cater well for anyone interested in classic texts of the ancient world and / or the sciences. Several visitors were engrossed, re-stacking piles they’d pulled books from, or decamping themselves to inspect volumes.
Finally, I visited the excellent Caledonia Books.
This is the kind of bookshop I’d aspire to run if I were a bookseller again. The stock is biased towards academic texts, whether mainstream or obscure, and though there are some piles of excess stock, the organisation is still superb, with pretty reliable alphabetisation. One day – when I have the budget – I’m going to have a serious splurge here. My only moan, as someone who used to photograph and list secondhand books online, is that the website is a letdown. You have to therefore visit in order to appreciate the superb stock. The fiction section is vast and intelligent. The biography section is of especial note. It’s a refreshing collection of people who have actually contributed to the sum total of knowledge of humankind rather than a scrum of nobodies pushing each other aside for attention. Allow enough time for a leisurely browse. Sublime in the Kantian sense.
I can’t recommend a secondhand bookshop binge enough. Which is why I have more to offer. Next time it’s Edinburgh.