For better and for worse, technology has transformed the way we consume our entertainment. In music, film, radio and literature, seemingly everything is available at the click of a button. And yet, as the convenience rises, the need for something tangible, real and long lasting remains.
Much like music’s increased demand for vinyl and its celebrated Record Store Day, so too should we showcase the importance of books and the independent bookshop. Far from disappearing, a trip around York reveals many bookstores open, alive and essential. Here are the city’s bestsellers to hold in our hands and in our hearts.
On a street lined with independents, it feels only right to see the pleasing frontage of a traditional book shop. Step through the racing green exterior and into a bustling world of books; over two floors you’ll find a fine range of subjects in quality secondhand and antiquarian books, from classic novels to academic titles, and impressive Folio editions. Friendly owner Alex will help you navigate the marvellous maze of books and locate your reading of choice.
The Minster Gate Bookshop
Located opposite York Minster is an apt shop that is full of stories in more ways than one. The history of the street on which The Minster Gate Bookshop lives is steeped in literature, with booksellers here since 1580 and formerly known as Bookland Lane. The shop continues to celebrate the past in their Georgian town house, with a specialist collection of folklore, early illustrators and lithographs of York. There is much more to discover across the five floors too, including an extensive stock of antiquarian and second-hand books.
The Blue House Bookshop
This friendly and welcoming shop on Bootham is a treat for the kids. Specialising in books for children and young adults, it is a lovely space to browse in an ancient building which backs on to St Mary’s Abbey. You can also buy with a happy conscience, as The Blue House Bookshop support the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust with a percentage of sales going towards tree planting in Yorkshire.
Janette Ray Bookseller
Janette Ray has been selling books in York for over two decades, starting in 1995 with rare and out of print books on art and design. Moving to her present location on Bootham in 2000, this medieval site has been beautifully revived and is a wonderful visit to view the expert stock. Still specialising in the sale and purchase of books on architecture, design, fine art and photography, there are unique gems to be found on every visit to Janette Ray Bookseller.
The Grimoire Bookshop
Another central bookshop packed full of second hand and antiquarian readings, The Grimoire on High Petergate is an adventure to explore. It is homely and piled with books all over, from science fiction to historic fact. Take some time to scour through the three rooms and leave with your new favourite literature.
The Little Apple Bookshop
Tim and Philippa opened The Little Apple Bookshop 25 years ago and continue to invite us in to their charming store on High Petergate. There are a variety of genres for both children and adults in lovely new hardbacks and paperbacks. The duo are masters of their craft – even having had a Man Booker prize shortlisted author working there in Fiona Mozley – and are rightly proud of creating a local destination of a bookshop.
The Portal Bookshop
A wonderfully unique bookshop with the proud tagline of ‘queer, nerdy, indie!’ Since opening in 2019 The Portal have been increasing their stock of LGBTQIA books and are now local leaders in their field. Alongside these are an array of science fiction and fantasy to geek out to. It’s an inclusive, independent, inspirational and impressive portal to escape into.
York Explore Reading Cafe
As well as the aforementioned amazing independent bookshops, York also offers reading cafes to relax in. York Explore Reading Cafe at Library Square is a lovely space of serenity in which to borrow books and take some time out reading with homemade cake and a coffee.
Rowntree Park Reading Cafe
This scenic central setting with views of nature and beauty at Rowntree Park offers a full library service and home cooked menu to enjoy in tranquility. A lovely visit for children and adults alike, grab breakfast or lunch and a book for a satisfying daytime escape.
Images: The Little Apple Bookshop, Fossgate Books, The Blue House Bookshop, The Portal Bookshop