Independent bookshops in Leeds

Bookshop by A30_Tsitika, on FlickrI’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I buy my books. Although I don’t very often buy new, full-price books (charity shops, market used-book stalls and readitswapit.com are my friends, and obviously any books I don’t want to own and keep come from the library), when I do buy books they tend to come from one of two places: Amazon, for the cheapness and convenience; or Waterstones, for the simple reason that they’re often the only physical bookshop on the high street.

I’ve never really given it that much thought before – those are just the easiest places for me to buy books from – but I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about spending my money with large, anonymous corporations (one of which is a shameful tax dodger), rather than supporting local independents. My excuse, such as it is, is that I’ve not lived in the area for that long (ok, 14 months… long enough really) so I didn’t know where any good local bookshops were.

Well, this week I decided: no more excuses! Knowing that there are some lovely Leeds-based people on Twitter, I asked the question of my network: are there any independent bookshops in Leeds?

Sadly, the short answer seemed to be no! I did get a few replies pointing out a few nice places around Leeds, but unfortunately none in the city. Here are the places that were recommended:

Radish, Chapel Allerton – “an indie green/radical bookshop and fair trading post”. This place sounds AWESOME. Chapel Allerton is MILES out of my way, but I am totally willing to treck out there just to visit Radish.

The Idle Hour, Horsforth – although the person who mentioned this wasn’t sure if they were still in existence or not, and as their website hasn’t been updated since 2007 this one might have gone. Anyone in Horsforth know if this still exists?

Garforth bookshop – Probably won’t find myself in Garforth any time soon (until this bookshop was recommended, I’d never heard of the place) but if I do, I shall stick my head in and check this place out.

The Bookshop Kirkstall – A second-hand and antiquarian bookshop. Again, quite far out of my way, and they keep short opening hours, but they do also sell online through AbeBooks.

Philip Howard books – Also not somewhere I’d ever be passing through, but sounds nice.

Village Bookstore – This one’s not open yet, but it promises to be an “independent art book and zine store”. Sounds fabulous!

Grove Bookshop, Ilkley – Even further out of my way, but looks just lovely. Plus, Ilkley is pretty, and as the person who recommended it to me on Twitter pointed out, I could pop to Betty’s for a brew afterwards!

Also worth a mention here is OK Comics, Leeds’ independent comic book shop. Although I don’t read that many comics/graphic novels (pictured below is my entire graphic novel collection), I have been getting more into them in recent years, and I would like to discover new series/artists to explore. And OK Comics looks great – they have a friendly Twitter account, seem very good on customer service, and offer a free graphic novel lending library.

My graphic novel collection. Screengrab from LibraryThing

All of my graphic novels - mostly Buffy and Sandman!

However, shameful though it may be to admit, I’ve not quite dared to actually go in there yet. This is not their fault, it’s mine: comic book shops scare me. I’m still scarred from venturing into Forbidden Planet in London a few years ago to buy a copy of the first issue of the Buffy comic series. It was the first comic I’d bought, and the first and last time I went into a comic book shop. Everyone there, staff included, stared at me with great big “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” looks on their faces. The sales assistant visibly sneered when he saw what I was buying. It was horrible: I hadn’t felt so unwelcome, so completely and obviously out of place, since I was a teenager. Since then, I’ve bought all of my graphic novels online (mostly, sorry to say, from Amazon), where no one can judge me.

Now, I’m not saying I expect OK Comics to be the same. They could be really nice people who make an effort not to make anyone feel excluded. And maybe some day, I will actually pluck up the courage to go in there and find out. Not just yet, though.

Anyway, slight digression on my fear of comic book shops aside, that was the results of my investigation into Leeds-based independent bookshops. Any I’ve missed? Any more recommendations would be very gratefully received!

Many thanks to the following Twitter users who replied to or retweeted my original question: @PeopleofLeeds (under the control, at the time, of @LianneMarieB), @ladylugosi, @LuraTea, @Destructodd, @Prossian, @CultureLEEDS, @MildlyConfused, @Lindsay22w, @KarolineK, @BeeCleaver, and @KatieScarlett14.

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7 Comments

  1. I would love you to come and visit Radish. We’ve been open for 7 years now – and we have a small shelf of graphic novels. Both OK and Forbidden Planet in Leeds are fab too not at all ‘up themselves!’.

    The Idle Hour, sadly, only lasted 3 years and if you want to do a bookshop ‘crawl’ Philip Howard is only a few miles away from us.

    However, we ARE truly awesome. If you choose a Saturday to come, then that will be moi you see behind the counter. Fridays and Mondays are Sally and Tues-Thurs will be Rory. Do introduce yourself and have a chat!

    Best
    Meg

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Meg! That’s a shame about Idle Hour though 😦

      A bookshop crawl is a fantastic idea – I may well have to do that soon! Will definitely try to make it to Radish soon, will come and say hi when I do 🙂

      Reply
  2. Thanks for putting this list together! I’ve lived in Leeds since I was 3 and it’s been sad seeing the city centre gradually losing the many independent shops (although I don’t think there were ever very many bookshops). This is the first time I’ve seen a list of independent bookshops around the city, and it’s sad to see how few there are.

    Reply
    • Hi, thanks for the comment. It is sad, isn’t it? That’s why I’d like to make an effort to use as many of these shops as I can get to – if you don’t use them, they disappear!

      Reply
  3. It is a very sad state of affairs – I frequently find myself wishing to peruse the shelves of a good bookshop on my lunch break in the city centre and being left dissatisfied. Charity shops and Awesomebooks.com are my favourite avenues, but it’d be nice to be able to just look at a good selection of hard copies – get a feel before buying.

    And don’t feel bad about comic book shops – I know exactly what you mean. I like all things comic and geeky but there is such an inherent cultish nature to these places that it does not matter about the people or the layout: if you are not a regular, you feel like an outsider.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Phil, sorry it’s taken me a while to reply! I agree, it is a sad state of affairs. I’m trying to do my bit these days by buying all my books from actual bookshops – I only use Amazon for ebooks now.

      I have actually been to OK Comics a few times since writing this, and have to say that they are lovely, welcoming folks. I do still find browsing there a bit nerve-racking, simply because the size and layout of the place means you’re always in sight of the staff and other customers, which makes me feel a bit self-conscious – I like to get lost in bookshops! I do buy all my graphic novels there now though, so happy to support a lovely local independent.

      Reply
  4. Matthew Adamson

     /  December 10, 2015

    Whenever I wanted a book, I always used to go to Chevin Book, Bay Horse Court, Otley. Last time I went he said they were struggling and have had to retrench and move into one building; their stock not as extensive as it was.

    Reply

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