36 College Green
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter Books Upstairs are the lofty bookshelves which extend almost completely from floor to ceiling and still, it seems astonishing how many various interesting genres and books that this small shop is able to showcase.
On first impressions, Books Upstairs seems to be a traditional independent Irish bookshop as the shelves to the right of the door are concerned primarily with Irish interest, with famous writers such as James Joyce and Oscar Wilde dominating, whereas the shelves on the left are laden with assorted popular fiction novels. Therefore it is a great surprise when you delve further into the depths of the shop and find the extensive range of genres that makes Books Upstairs so worth mentioning.
Among these are literary criticism, psychology, history and science, but what really stands out are the more alternative selections of feminism and gay literature. Consequently, Books Upstairs effectively juxtaposes traditional Irish literature and history with a range of books relevant to our ever-developing modern society.
On the upper section of the bookshop, there is also a wide range of journals to be found, mainly concerned with current Irish literature and poetry, and to top it all off there are a number of socialist journals for any of you left-wing enthusiasts out there.
The Winding Stair
40 Lower Ormond Quay
Interestingly The Winding Stair is one of the oldest independent bookshops in Dublin and despite its location in the heart of the city, as soon as you walk into this store you will feel like you have stepped back into the nineteenth century.
The shop stocks both new books and second-hand, ranging in genres but mainly focusing on fiction and poetry, with hundreds of fantastic novels to choose from. In order to help you choose from this wonderful collection there are hand-written reviews of selected books stuck onto the bookshelves, which really adds to the friendly ambiance of this enchanting bookshop. There is also a range of hand-made pocket poetry books, notebooks and cards which are all beautifully decorated with antique, Victorian patterns.
For all vintage lovers, this shop is ideal. Not only is there a range of unique books with handsomely embellished façades and charming, age-old illustrations, the shop also has wonderful antique wooden floors, shelves, chairs and tables, establishing a sultry, cosy atmosphere which you won’t want to leave. Fortunately, there are two sets of tables and chairs located just at the window of the shop, where they invite you to sit, relax, read and listen to the soft classical music in the background. What’s more, they serve tea, coffee or even a glass of wine.
The Gutter Bookshop
Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar
The most mainstream of the four, this bookshop is a contemporary yet quirky establishment, offering everything that big chain bookshops offer but with a little more personality.
The Gutter Bookshop is, paradoxically considering the name, a clean, well-organised store, decorated with crisp white walls and bookshelves which makes browsing for the perfect book easy and efficient. Nonetheless, the store’s individuality shines through presenting itself with interesting finishing touches such as the faux grass rug in the children’s section.
What sets The Gutter Bookshop apart from all of its competitors however, are the friendly staff and their commitment and interest in helping you find the perfect book. Similar to The Winding Stair, this book shop has a number of hand-written book reviews on the shelves to help you find exactly what you want. They also have a table full of staff picks, which are guaranteed to be excellent, captivating reads.
Numerous monthly book groups take place in the amiable and cheerful store and in addition the staff also organise various other events throughout the year which in the past have consisted of numerous book launches and even book speed-dating.
As one further piece of advice, when the festive season approaches, do your gift shopping in this shiny gem, as not only do they provide a vast collection of literature, they also serve mulled wine and biscuits for the customers each and every Christmas.
The Secret Book and Record store
15a Wicklow Street
Tucked away in Wicklow Street, beside the Nourish Health Store, lies the entrance to this authentic little haven of books. Absent of all aestheticism, this shop is pretty much just stacks and stacks of books, new and old, piled into one chaotic room. However, if you persist in your quest to rummage through this messy collection you will perhaps come across the most wonderfully eccentric, not to mention cheapest, books you have ever read.
The store is filled with books of every genre including a wide range of dirt-cheap comics for the little Marvel nerd inside each of us. Literature such as How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard, a vital necessity for any English student, makes this place a veritable treasure chest for those with the patience to explore it.
While there is an attempt to categorise books in some areas of the shop, in general the books are just strewn from one end of the room to the other (except for that itsy-bitsy record section). For this reason, it’s best to go into this store with an open mind rather than searching for a particular title. Embrace the chaos.
Warning: This shop does come with a particularly curious smell, which can be a little fishy at times. Don’t let this put you off; the interesting book collection is worth enduring this questionable odour.