There’s nothing more comforting than a bookshop on a cold day. As the leaves begin to turn and paint Bristol in shades of orange, the season of curling up on a sofa with a hot chocolate in one hand and a good book in the other has arrived, signalling that it’s time to head to one of these independently owned bookshops and find a new favourite.
Boasting the title of 2023’s Independent Bookshop of the Year in the South West, Storysmith is a must for any bookworm visiting Bristol. The shop's contents are tightly curated and vetted by its staff, who are all lovers of literature themselves. If you’re looking to find a new title to fall in love with, their website offers various ‘Lists of literary distinctions,’ or in plain English; ‘recommendations.’ The store also hosts bookish events, including signings, talks from new authors, and even a book club. They even serve local coffee! Find out more here.
The Last Bookshop- Park Street
Being a reader can get expensive. Oftentimes expanding your personal library can come with a high price tag- but not with the Last Bookshop. Unless stated otherwise, each book is only £4. The shop is aiming to reduce waste in the publishing industry by taking books that would otherwise be binned and selling them at a reduced cost. Due to their unconventional business model, their range is eclectic and constantly changing, with every genre accounted for. Other than their cup-price copies of classics like Austen and Dickens, the shop is filled with weird, esoteric titles at great prices. Discover more here.
Max Minerva’s- Henleaze
After upgrading late last year from a small shop on Westbury Road to their current, larger location in Henleaze, Max Minerva’s is living proof that the indie bookshop scene is alive and well. On top of their wide range of titles, they sell bookish t-shirts, toys, and stationery. Check out their monthly book subscription service, which provides you each month with a carefully selected new book of a genre of your choice- anything from crime fiction to poetry. Make sure to have a look at their events programme ahead of time, as there are always upcoming signings or discussions. Find out more on their website.
Bookhaus- Whapping Wharf
Bookhaus prides itself on being a real Bristol bookshop, maintaining a focus on books about politics, cooking, and releases by small or independent publishers. If you are interested in contemporary fiction and non-fiction, particularly about social justice and radicalism, Bookhaus is the place to be. They host four monthly book groups, each following a different theme such as texts about or set during revolutions, or ‘weird’ cult classic stories and graphic novels. Bookhaus is a modern and unique bookshop, and is well worth a visit for any curious minds in the area. You can learn more about Bookhaus here.
Clifton Community Books- Clifton
Run by volunteers, Clifton Community Books operates slightly differently from others. Their focus is on providing a space for community to thrive, as well as a great place to get low-cost second-hand books. All of their proceeds go to a local mental health charity, and since all of their books come from donations you never know what gems you might find. You’ll leave this shop with three books for less than a tenner, and the added bonus of knowing you’re helping out our local community. Everybody wins! Plan your visit here.
Heron Books- Clifton Arcade
Heron Books opened only last year, making it the newest addition to this list. Its location in Clifton Arcade makes it feel like taking a trip back in time, which is an excellent quality for a small bookshop. Its owners stress that anyone is welcome to come in for a chat about books at any time, especially if you’re looking for a new recommendation. Check out more here.
Dreadnought Books- Brandon Hill
If you’re a fan of non-fiction, head to Dreadnought. Specialising in historical non-fiction, this second-hand shop is small but mighty, with a curated range of titles chosen by its owner. Its focus on non-fiction makes it quite unique in Bristol, and it is relatively unknown- even to many locals. Head over and discover a book about a fascinating historical event you’ve never heard of before, and then take it to Brandon Hill for a perfect afternoon. Order now from here.
Charity Bookshops- Throughout Bristol
Okay, whilst not technically independently owned, it is worth noting Bristol’s multiple excellent charity bookshops, where you can find new and old titles at a huge discount. Oxfam has multiple bookshops throughout Bristol, with their Park Street shop being particularly notable for its collection of local history books and postcards. British Heart Foundation on Whiteladies Road has a great selection of second-hand vinyl and DVDs as well as plenty of books, and Amnesty in Bishopston has been a staple of its local community for 25 years, and is one of a kind in the UK.
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