Updated: Dec 31, 2022
There will definitely be a follow-up to this post called “Five More Fantastic Independent Bookshops to Check Out in Dublin”.
Something like that.
And then another in a similar vein, and then another. And a few more after those too.
Because there’s no shortage of wonderful bookstores in Ireland’s capital, and they all deserve some love and attention.
So, here’s the first - of many – posts about ‘em.
Located in Blackrock, a pleasant seaside village in south Dublin, Raven Books is an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the main street.
It's a small store, but they've fit a lot in: there's an impressive selection of first and secondhand books, a secret nook for the kids, and some comfy seats to sink into.
It's owned by Louisa Cameron, winner of the prestigious Bookseller of the Year award in 2021.
The judges' comments say it all:
A hands-on, inspiring bookseller at the heart of her community for over a decade, she has helped create a new generation of readers through bookclubs and pinpoint book recommendations… She has been a shining light through the pandemic, hand-delivering books from a heavily-loaded bicycle: a symbol of inspiration and hope when we all needed it most.
I'm not crying. Just something in my eye.
34 Main St, Blackrock, Dublin, A94 T6H3
(01) 278 9509
“Secret” is the operative word here. Nestled down a narrow alley on lively Wicklow Street, you could easily stroll by without knowing.
And what a shame if you did! Because The Secret Bookstore is a Dublin city institution, and a must-visit for all you booklovers.
They sell a lot of niche stuff: everything from rare sci-fi to critical theory, to vintage music and movie magazines.
And, of course, all the familiar classics and bestsellers too.
Eclectic stock aside, the best thing about The Secret Bookstore might be the atmosphere: it's cosy and welcoming but, being so central, is always humming with energy and activity.
15A Wicklow St, Dublin 2, D02 Y765
087 955 5497
Alan Hanna’s Bookshop (or, as the locals call it, simply "Alan Hanna's") was recently included in Big 7 Travel’s "Best Bookshops in Dublin" article, and InDublin’s list of the top 5 indies in the city.
Pay it a visit, and you'll understand why.
This is a gem of a store that's the right type of messy. A bit scruffy, yes, even a little chaotic, but it all adds to the charm and character.
There’s an extensive selection of bestsellers, non-fiction, psychology, and music books, but where Alan Hanna's really excel is in Irish literature: they stock a lot of local writers, and the Irish history section is hard to beat.
And then there’s Molly, the store's longest-serving, furriest member of staff:
She recently passed away, which is terribly sad, but no write-up of Alan Hanna’s would be complete without her.
She might be gone, but the delightful store she left behind is still there.
270 Rathmines Rd Lower, Rathmines, Dublin 6, D06 XW92
(01) 496 7398
They should really hand out maps before you go into Chapters. It’s way too easy to get lost in there.
This is, after all, Dublin’s largest independent bookstore.
Split across two floors, Chapters sells an enormous range of books, both new and secondhand.
There’s all the genres you’d expect, but it’s the unusual ones that catch the eye, like the manga section, or the shelf packed with vintage Penguins:
Don’t you just love how orange they are?
Another cool thing about Chapters is their Cinema Bookclub. It’s a great idea: you read the book, then watch the film adaptation in the nearby Lighthouse Cinema, and go for a chat
after. If you’re a member, you get 10% off the book and the movie stub too!
Ivy Exchange, Parnell St, Dublin 1, D01 P8C2
(01) 879 2700
The story of Books Upstairs is not just one of great books, but of survival and resilience.
A lot has happened to the store since it opened in 1978: pandemics, relocations, the internet, economic crashes, the arrival of Amazon and the big chains.
Yet still it stands, some 43 years later.
This makes it Dublin's oldest indepedent bookstore, but it’s arguably the most influential too: its founders, Maurice Earls and Enda O’Doherty, were bookselling pioneers.
By stocking underrepresented genres, like philosophy, literary criticism, psychology, feminism, political journals, and gay literature, and combining them with popular bestsellers and familiar classics, they set the template for many to follow in their footsteps.
Today, Books Upstairs isn't just surviving, but thriving.
It relocated to a bigger space on D’Olier Street in 2015, so it’s been able to host literary events and even open a snug café. In 2019, they introduced a secondhand section, and the following year, a very attractive website.
17 D'Olier Street, Dublin 2
(01) 677 8566
So there you have it!
The first of many lists about Dublin's fantastic bookstores. The next one is in the post, so keep an eye out on The Indie Bookstore Collective.
But now it's time to shut down the laptop, and go for a coffee and a browse in one of the aforementioned establishments.
Might I suggest you do the same. 😉