Give local literary legends some love
Opening your own bookshop has never had a rep as the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme. This is something people do for love not lucre. In fact, these palaces of literature have never had an easy time of it, but things have really taken a turn for the worse since the advent of the giant A-word.
Still, tiny bookshops found they could outsmart the internet giant if they concentrated on what they did best. Knowledgable staff that can give better recommendations than any algorithm, interesting and quirky events, buckets of atmosphere and even a decent cup of coffee in one or two.
While not strictly bookshops we are intrigued by the Bound Art Book Fair at The Whitworth (October) and the Anarchist Book Fair at The People's History Museum (November). Many of Manchester cultural institutes, including HOME and Manchester Art Gallery, carry selections of attractive books specialising in the subjects they celebrate.
Why not pay these Manchester indies a visit?
ANYWHERE OUT OF THE WORLD
There is something a bit magical about having to climb the stairs to find a hidden bookshop. This treasure in the Northern Quarter, presumably named after the poem by Baudelaire, stocks secondhand only. Discover it by climbing to the floor above Beermoth. The bookshop is open Wednesday to Sunday, 12-7pm.
Anywhere Out of the World 70 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1L
B IS FOR BUTTERFLY
Based in the Sale, B is for Butterfly is an independent bookshop specialising in children's books but it can order in any books currently in print and available in the UK. It's tucked away inside Emporium M33 and offers excellent advice for the budding reader, plus you can browse their curated lists on bookshop.org
B is for Butterfly Emporium M33, 3-7 Tatton Rd, Sale M33 7EB
Ok, we admit it, this is not an indie. The University-based chain has long been supplying students with books for resting coffee cups on (and occasionally cracking open in a panic) for aeons but the relatively new shop on University Green is a joy and it does some decent events too so it is worth keeping an eye on.
Blackwell's University Green, Manchester M13 9GP
Bravely bucking the downward trend, sisters Christine Cafun and Lyndsy Kirkman opened Chapter One opened in 2015: immediately gaining fans with a curated book selection, quirky furnishings and an onsite cafe. A Northern Quarter favourite stop-off, the vegan chocolate cherry brownies are recommended. Chapter One also hosts several community events, from life drawing to reading groups.
19 Lever Street M1 1BY
Threatened with closure in 2014 due to the proposal of a new bar next door, this family favourite remains after hundreds turned up to protest. Current bestsellers are guaranteed, along with many other titles arranged by genre and a selection of related merchandise such as Paperblank notebooks and fun 3D bookmarks.
506 Wilbraham Road M21 9AW
DIDSBURY VILLAGE BOOKSHOP
This secondhand bookstore is tucked away behind The Art of Tea, ensuring visitors enjoy the twin joys of lunching and literature under one roof. Owner Caroline inherited the business from her father Bob who sadly died last year. The stock still reflects his eclectic tastes so expect to find everything from beautifully bound Persian poetry to old British classics and contemporary foreign fiction.
Inside The Art of Tea, 47 Barlow Moor Road M20 6TW
ELIZABETH GASKELL'S HOUSE
Not strictly a bookshop, nevertheless the secondhand book sale at Elizabeth Gaskell's House is a literary outing in itself. Two rooms packed full of books of all genres, with new stock every month, means there are treasures to be found. Prices from £1 for a paperback. The book sale is included in admission to the House (tickets valid for 12 months) and accessed at the end of the House visit or you can pre-book a "book sale only" ticket between 11am and 12pm which just gives you access to the book sale and tea room. Pre-booking is necessary.
Elizabeth Gaskell's House 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester M13 9LW
The Modernist is the only bookshop in Manchester specialising in architecture and design. The shop is the brainchild of the Modernist Society and serves as its HQ with office, library, gallery and event space holding regular exhibitions. The focus is modernist architecture, graphics, typography, transport, furniture and product design. Visit for everything from tomes on Brutalism to very cool prints.
The Modernist 58 Port Street Manchester M1 2EQ
This classic on Shudehill only opens Thursday-Sunday and keeps irregular hours – owner Paul varies the opening times depending on how busy it is. You just have to turn up and hope it's open to get a look at the secondhand treasures, comics, records and vintage clothes. A few doors down is Arndale Exchange which also purports to be a bookshop but is more focused on gentlemen's periodicals.
Paramount Books 25-27 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 2AF
Queer Lit developed as a response to the lack of specialist suppliers of books covering LGBTQ+ topics, initially as a website but now with a lovely store on Tib Street. The shop stocks over 1700 titles currently and is always adding to the list as it welcomes suggestions from the public. While the books - from the serious to the lighthearted - are definitely the main focus you can also find a natty range of cards and pin badges.
Queer Lit 39 Tib Street, Manchester, M4 1LX
This award-winning family bookshop - one of the "top 50 in Britain" - offers titles for adults and children (new and second-hand) plus stationery, gifts and educational toys and games. Staff can order any book in print, many with a next-day delivery service, and there is a well-equipped meeting room for community happenings.
Urmston Bookshop 72 Flixton Road, Urmston M41 5AB
This article was originally created in 2018 and updated in October 2021
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