MM’s top five… second-hand bookshops in Manchester city centre

By James Scott

With the second hand book-trade looking rather worn and frayed around the ages, MM browses the best places to pick up inexpensive books.

Second-hand bookshops are a dying breed, getting priced out by high street bookstores and alienated by the rise of the sinister electronic reader.

The past ten years has seen a huge increase in the amount of people buying books online, with online traders such as Amazon transforming the face of the literary industry.

But for those who still delight in browsing the ragged jackets of old classics at your local second-hand bookshop, this is the list for you.

5. Oxfam Emporium, Oldham Street, NQ.

Charity shops are great places to pick up a few cheap reads, and this Oxfam located in the heart of the Northern Quarter offers a decent range of titles.

It has an old and rare book collection, to accompany a sizable selection of fiction and historical books.

The shelves also feature recommendations from staff members, always a helpful indicator when overwhelmed by options.

4. Shudehill Book Centre, Shudehill.

What this bookshop lacks in character and decoration, it makes up for with packed shelves and ample space to browse (we all know how problematic it can be manoeuvring around a small bookshop.)

The shop has made an honourable effort to collect the plethora of works churned out by literary luminaries Terry Pratchett and Stephen King.

Crime, romance and even late nineties boxing memorabilia are catered for here, as well as a collection of lighter reading in the adult’s only section.

3. Manchester Book Buyers, Church Street Market, NQ.

This second-hand book stall opposite the Arndale Centre allows passers-by to pick up books at bargain prices with boxes offering £1 and 50p titles.

The walls are adorned with the Manchester Book Buyer’s mantra: ‘seek and ye shall find,’ as the onus is really on the customer to peruse the crates of books containing Wilde, Hardy and Bennett. 

There is also the war-cry of the second-hand book seller written on the wall: ‘kill the kindle, buy a book’.

2. Empire Exchange, Newton Street, Piccadilly.

Most people who have walked into the city centre from Piccadilly train station will be aware of this colourful shop of the weird and the wonderful, Empire Exchange.

This vintage collectables shop is a treasure cove for rummagers, and there is bound to be some rare book to take your fancy.

The range is impressive, from annuals and football programmes, to a meaty section on ships and war weaponry.

As you wander around accompanied by sixties tunes oozing out of the speakers, it’s hard not to get carried away in this browsers paradise.

1. Paramount Books, Shudehill.

Tucked away opposite the Arndale car-park, this shop fills the criteria for the perfect second-hand book shop.

Beautifully decorated with a stylish piano, a sofa for reading and various antique ornaments, this place is a delight.

Comic books sheaved in their protective cases are lined up in crates, along with crisp Punch magazines from yesteryear.

But there is so much more on offer, from Blyton, to Bond, to TinTin plastic bags.

You can even tread over the musty rugs in the backroom to marvel at yet more books, watched over by a browning map of the world.

So as we turn the pages tentatively of the last few chapters of the second hand book shop, be sure to visit these five literary hotspots, in the heart of Manchester.

Photo courtesy of Laurie Pink, with thanks.

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