The North's best indie bookshops

Feature by The Skinny Editorial Team | 15 Jun 2016
  • Book Highlights

To mark Independent Bookshop Week (18-25 June), we selected some of our favourite independent book stores in the North and suggested some titles you could read in them. Where will you be curling up with a good book?

Independent bookshops in Manchester:

Chapter One

Tucked away on a quiet bit of Lever Street in the Northern Quarter, Chapter One has only been open for a year but it's quickly established itself as the go-to indie bookshop in Manchester city centre. Light and spacious, it offers a neat combination of book store, cafe and performance space; the quality of titles on offer is very high, and there are even reading copies of books so you can test them out in an armchair over a coffee. The shop's fountain and old-fashioned typewriters (which you can use) add to the atmosphere, and the secluded mezzanine makes an ideal hideout.

What to read at Chapter One: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah. The hugely anticipated debut novel of Zimbabwean writer Gappah is 'a powerful exploration of race, the penal system and what it means to be a woman in Africa'

chapteronebooks.co.uk | @chapter1uk

Aspidistra Books

Based in Manchester, book retailer and literary events company Aspidistra Books specialises in titles on politics, history, the LGBT community, art and fiction. While its owner Joseph Parkinson is preparing to set up shop, Aspidistra is currently building a reputation for itself on Twitter as a great account to follow for interesting literary links, local events news ('speed dating with Hemingway', anyone?) and reading list inspiration. You can keep an eye on the shop's progress on Facebook

What to read: Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell. The inspiration for Aspidistra's name, this caustic novel set in 1930s London sees its protagonist Gordon Comstock rebel against the fripperies of capitalism – before his experiment ends in typically Orwellian fashion.

facebook.com/aspidistrabooks07 | @AspidistraBooks

Chorlton Bookshop

A cosy, family-owned bookshop on Wilbraham Road, Chorlton Bookshop has been open since 1983. Fitting for its location in the suburbs, the shop has a neighbourhood feel, with the effect of rifling through its selection of fiction, non-fiction and children's titles rather like wandering into a local library or your grandparents' study. It's a warm, friendly and knowledgable place to pick up a book.

What to read: Middlemarch by George Eliot. Widely considered to be the quintessential 19th century realist novel, Eliot's ambitious exploration of provincial life has rarely been bettered in its political and psychological insights.

@chorltonbkshop

Chapter One Books, Manchester

[Pictured: Chapter One Books, Manchester]

Radical literature in Liverpool:

News from Nowhere 

The bright rainbow above its doorway ensures you can't miss Liverpool's radical and community bookshop, News from Nowhere. This co-operatively run store stocks a wide range of 'books to change the world', with a catalogue of anti-capitalist titles and writings on inequality, the environment and activism – plus a great range of political newspapers, pamphlets and zines. The curated displays and very friendly staff ensure you never feel out of your depth, and the shop regularly hosts talks, debates and socials where you can meet like-minded people. 

What to read: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. New Yorker writer Kolbert won a Pulitzer Prize for her exploration of what scientists suspect will be the deadliest extinction since the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs. This time, the cataclysm is us.

newsfromnowhere.org.uk | @newsfromnowhere

News from Nowhere, Liverpool

Independent bookshops in Leeds:

Village 

If you're a magazine fetishist and love stores like Magma, you'll weep tears of joy when you enter Village in Leeds. The shop has one of the best ranges of art books and independent magazines we've ever seen, as well as a continuously updated selection of self-published titles and zines from around the world.

What to read: n+1. More than a literary magazine, this decade-old title combines creative writing, lit, culture, and politics, and looks smart too. 

villagebooks.co | @village_leeds

Colours May Vary 

A bookshop and events space in the Munro House creative hub, Colours May Vary joins the aforementioned Village in making Leeds' independent publishing scene something really special. Design geeks and typography nerds will find plenty to love here, from specialist publications to journals, notepads, screen prints and other wares. It's also right next door to one of our favourite exhibition spaces in Leeds, The Gallery at Munro House, and the excellent Cafe 164, so you can make an afternoon of it. 

What to read: Little Atoms. Once a radio show, now a journal, Little Atoms bucks the trend and makes the jump from digital to print with a mixed bag of interviews, journalism, essays and musings.

colours-may-vary.com | @Colours_mayvary 

The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley 

A beautiful traditional bookshop painted in a glorious royal blue, The Grove is a well-loved Ilkley landmark as well as official bookseller for the annual Ilkley Literature Festival, meaning you can pick up signed copies from authors passing through for the event every October. Alongside its general range it stocks a large number of local interest titles, and downstairs you'll find a music shop.

What to read: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke. Freshly printed in May, Penguin's new 'pocket classics' look so good you could eat 'em; 20 lesser-known titles each in a single block colour and only costing five or six quid a pop. This one is about feeling melancholy in Paris; the wet Yorkshire summer doesn't seem so bad, after all. 

grovebookshop.com | @GroveBookshop

Coffee Shop: North book launch at Village, Leeds by Nick Porter

[Coffee Shop: North book launch at Colours May Vary, Leeds. Photo: Nick Porter]

Some great bookshops further afield

Salt's Mill, Saltaire 

The light-filled bookshop at Salt's Mill is the cherry on the cake of this West Yorkshire haven. Salt's Mill is home to a very large (and the only permanent) collection of works by David Hockney in the UK, exhibition spaces, retail and restaurants/cafes, with developer Jonathan Silver's vision of a place where culture and commerce could thrive alongside each other continuing founder Sir Titus Salt's vision for the self-contained village of Saltaire. The bookshop has a good range of poetry and children's titles as well as art books, philosophy, fact and fiction. 

What to read: Just get a lovely big Hockney book, of course.

saltsmill.org.uk | @SaltsMill 

Storytellers, Inc., Lytham St Anne's

Winners of Independent Bookshop of the Year (North) in 2015, Storytellers, Inc. is another family affair, run by mother-daughter team Carolyn and Katie Clapham. Often charmingly decorated (the store has a dedicated children's area and reading den), Storytellers stocks a carefully selected range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and hosts readings from some of contemporary literature's most popular new names (Costa Book Awards shortlistee Carys Bray and The Miniaturist author Jessie Burton both appear this summer).

What to read: The Muse, by Jessie Burton. The Miniaturist writer's second book after her Waterstones Book of the Year-scooping debut, The Muse is published at the end of June and tells the Spain-set story of four women and a lost painting that connects them.

storytellersinc.co.uk@storytellersinc

The Bookcase, Hebden Bridge

A gem of a shop in the picturesque town of Hebden Bridge, The Bookcase stocks a healthy range of literary fiction and non-fiction, as well as local history, nature writing and walking guides for the area. Staff recommendations are regularly updated and the shop hosts writers' events and signings, as well as participating each year in the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and Ted Hughes Festival (Hughes was born and lived in neighbouring Mytholmroyd). 

What to read: Beastings, by Ben Myers. Published by Hebden Bridge's own imprint Bluemoose Books, the primal, gutturally-written Beastings is Myers' second novel and beat Alan Garner to the Portico Prize in 2015.

bookcase.co.uk | @bookcasehebden

Who have we missed? Let us know your favourite bookshops in the comments below or by tweeting us at @TheSkinnyNW