For August, Literati Pulp is celebrating Used Bookstores. Our Dublin Correspondent Lee Cross shares his best picks of bookshops in Dublin that every literature-lover should visit.
Follow #UsedBookStores on Twitter for our latest bookshop adventures.
by Lee Cross
(Parnell St – North End O’Connell Street)
I’m never one for describing something as, “the best,” but Chapters might have a claim on being Ireland’s best used-book shop. What I can say for sure is that it’s the biggest Independent / second-hand seller in Dublin, with the entire and massive second floor being dedicated to used books.
If I’m looking for a particular book, Chapters is the place I go; they’ve a wide selection and everything is divided into well thought out genres and sub-categories, and for the most part it’s still a place where you pick up a real bargain.
The Oxfam Book Shop
(Parliament Street – near Temple Bar)
There’s a few of these in Dublin, and by that, I mean specifically dedicated book shops, with the usual, yet by no means less worthy, charity shops being far more numerous.
What I like I about Oxfam is also what I dislike about Oxfam; they take great care to make sure books are shelved A-Z (by authors name), which is handy when you want to find a specific book, but unfortunate in that they charge a premium for doing so (not only relative to other charity shops but also to dedicated sellers).
Don’t think me mean, it’s all for a good cause, I just like my charity book stores to have a bit more soul to them, and to be a lot more disorganised – it adds to the fun. Still, that said, it’s for a good cause and as such can’t be bad.
The Independent Book Stalls
(Temple Bar Square – weekends)
I not sure if the lads have an official name, like a company name or something; I just think of them as ‘the lads that sell the books in Temple Bar’.
Your book is either going to be there, or it’s not, simple as. Don’t bother asking the lads, they don’t give a damn what book(s) you’re looking for, they’re selling the books that they are selling and if they’re not good enough for you, then they’re not good enough for you. The End.
The books are excellent though, this is where I go when I don’t know what to read and need inspiration to strike.
And the stall holders do that perfect kind of upselling… i.e. they don’t. They’re selling books for gosh sake, the book should sell itself; and if you are a person who needs a book sold to you, you’re probably a person who’s not going to read the bloody thing anyway.
One tip about the stalls, go on a sunny day if possible – and remember this is Dublin we’re talking about (you’ve heard of rocking-horse shit?… well, think rarer).
The Carmelite Church Book Shop
(Camden St – 10 minutes from Temple Bar)
There’s two reasons for the non-believer to visit this temple of worship, one is for the shrine of St Valentine that lies within (it’s a good date stop – trust me Tinderites), and the other is the bookshop.
The little old ladies who volunteer there are always lovely; really, genuinely, lovely, and amongst the purest example of why the church still might have a place in this modern world.
However, they know absolutely nothing about books, which fits the vibe of the place perfectly, and is reflected the crazy pricing policy – you’ll find some brand new hardbacks being sold for 50cent, while next to them you’ll see the novelisation of Star-Trek The Final Frontier being sold for a tenner.
Pricing of the books is 100% dependent upon who was holding the pencil on the particular day they were donated. But none of that matters, no matter how you feel when you go into this shop, you always feel better when you walk out – completely regardless of whether you actually bought a book or not.
The Secret Book Shop
(…I’m not telling…)
How secret is it? Well, a friend of mine, who has lived their entire 30 years in Dublin City, didn’t know it existed until a couple of weeks ago, when we were pal’ing around for the day, and I mentioned I wanted to go in there (I’m looking Richard Brautigan fanatically at the moment – I mentioned rocking-horse shit and sunny Dublin days earlier… think rarer.)
Low and behold, this 100% Dubliner had never been into perhaps Dublin’s best kept secret. I suppose the question is; how does a book shop that most people don’t know exist manage to survive? Well, short of busting out the calculators and going through the books, I’m going to stick my neck and say – true readers, the hardcore bookworms of this world, are not “most people”. We will actively seek books, we will search out stores and stalls, we will readily pay whatever a book is worth and without quibble.
I mentioned earlier that the romantic in me demands that book shops have soul…. well, The Secret Book Shop has soul.
The Winding Stair
(North side quays – off O’Connell Street)
I hate this book shop. I’m serious – hate. I went on the date from Hell there once (there’s restaurant upstairs… I’m in love with books… but I’m not an idiot… well, not a complete idiot), arriving with a delightful young lady, and leaving with a raving mad banshee, who I remain utterly convinced weighs the same as a Duck.
The books are good though, I brought my copies of Moby Dick, Crime and Punishment, and Catch-22 at bargain prices; and the guy who runs the place (or ran perhaps, it’s been a while) knows an incredible amount about literature.
Still, if I was to read that the place had burnt down yesterday, I’d make sure I had an alibi ready.
Last, and by no means least – Books Upstairs; where I sit now writing these very words.
It moved a couple of years ago (I think), so it’s no longer opposite Trinity College or even upstairs, which is a real shame because it had been in its former location forever (that shop is now a bloody 7Evelen btw).
Today is the first time I’ve called in for ages, but I’m pleased to report that business is apparently thriving; they’ve opened up into the shop next-door, the basement has a load of books, and this café is really nice too.
It does my heart good to know that there is still a place for real book shops in Dublin.
Note: All of the above are within comfortable walking distance of one another, so even if you’re only in Dublin for one day you can easily stick your nose into all of them, and still have time to partake of the Craic before sundown.
Note II: “Craic” means alcohol – vast and limitless streams of alcohol.