Curling up with a good book is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. If you’re an avid reader who’s willing to look further than the biggest names on the high street, why not support one of Leeds’ brilliant independent and secondhand bookshops when choosing your next page-turner? Whatever your preferred genre or favourite author, you’re sure to find a title you’ll love at one of the gems on our list.
Colours May Vary, The Corn Exchange
A bookshop that looks equally chic inside and out, Colours May Vary has recently moved to an impressive new premises in Leeds’ Corn Exchange. This shop and gallery is the first in the city to focus on design publications and sells a wide range of art books, children’s books and magazines – all of which will make attractive additions to your coffee table. Colours May Vary’s owners, Becky and Andy, have the mantra ‘If we wouldn’t buy it ourselves we don’t stock it,’ and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding quirky, creative and beautifully-designed gifts here. A Google review says: ‘[Colours May Vary is] my go-to for the latest in contemporary and independent books, homeware and magazines. [It] stocks titles like Drift, Fantastic Man and Monocle, alongside Danish ceramics, greeting cards and travel guides. Worth a visit for Leeds’ best visual merchandising too!’
OK Comics, Thornton’s Arcade
Located in Thornton’s Arcade, this well-stocked bookshop specialises in everything to do with graphic novels and comics. You’ll find newly released monthly issues, classic backdated comics and even magazines about comics here, as well as an extensive selection of graphic novels. You can pick up popular independent titles such as Lichen, In Waves and Nao of Brown, or browse the latest superhero action adventure comics. For those who never want to miss an issue of their favourite series, the shop provides a free regular order service. A Google review says: ‘The staff know their content inside and out [and] are friendly, and incredibly accommodating. They’re always quick to offer suggestions of new work by writers and artists they know you love, or know you will love. The scope and scale of my interests have been forever changed by the staff here, from pure DC superheroes to noir crime, horror, and beyond.’
The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley
A stone’s throw from the pretty spa town of Ilkley’s bus and train stations, The Grove Bookshop has been open for over 40 years and was a regional finalist for the ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year’ at the British Book Awards. You can buy all of the classics here, but, as the shop tailors its stock to its customers, you’ll also have the opportunity to discover plenty of new, exciting and more unusual titles. The Grove Bookshop is an active contributor to Ilkley’s flourishing literary scene and regularly hosts book signings at the town’s playhouse. It’s also the official bookseller for the annual Ilkley Literature Festival, which takes place each October.
The Little Bookshop, Chapel Allerton
Located on Harrogate Road in the lively suburb of Chapel Allerton, The Little Bookshop first opened its doors in 2017. As its name suggests, the shop started out as a children’s book retailer but has since begun to cater to adults too. It has been praised for its thoughtfully-curated selection of books, which includes topical, non-fiction titles on subjects such as feminism, politics, climate change and parenting. Little ones will happily spend hours browsing the beautifully-illustrated picture books for sale here and will also enjoy storytime, which takes place each Friday at 11am. A Google review describes The Little Bookshop as ‘a beautiful little shop, full of fantastic children’s books for all ages,’ going on to say: ‘The shop feels modern and friendly and the staff are always helpful and knowledgeable!’
Chevin Books, Otley
Situated in the quaint market town of Otley, Chevin Books is a traditional secondhand bookshop with overflowing shelves and that delightful old book smell. A great way to spend a rainy Saturday, you can easily lose yourself in their treasure trove of literature – especially if you’re interested in one of their specialisms, which include military history, the arts, railways, local interest and magic and conjuring. Chevin Books will also purchase secondhand titles to resell, so remember to bring along any unwanted old books that you might have lying around at home. A review on Yelp says: ‘I’ve always thought that what central Leeds is really lacking is a decent second hand bookshop, something to counteract the spread of ‘super’ bookstores and instead offer a place to immerse yourself in the wonderful atmosphere of old, musty books. Happily, Chevin Books in Otley more than makes up for this, with a stock of over 20,000 antique, second hand and rare titles covering most subjects. Prices are reasonable too, and the owner seems to know pretty much everything about everything.’
The Bookshop on the Square, Otley
This charming local bookshop sells titles from many different genres, including everything found in the current book charts as well as a delightful selection of gifts and stationery. The Bookshop on the Square can be found next to Otley’s historic marketplace, which comes to life on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The knowledgeable staff here are always happy to provide book recommendations and you can also find these on the shop’s Facebook page. A Google review describes it as a ‘wonderful little bookshop’ saying: ‘Many other lovely things can be purchased here too – from art cards to jigsaws and notebooks….Definitely worth popping in!’
Village Books, Thornton’s Arcade
Village Books is an art bookshop and not-for-profit gallery space residing in one of Leeds’ magnificent Victorian arcades. The shop aims to promote emerging artists and photographers from the city, while also showcasing works by established artists from further afield. Village Books has a warm, down-to-earth atmosphere and its crowded shelves are bursting with contemporary art books and magazines, including self-published titles and small press zines from around the world. Its wide-ranging collections encompass art and design, illustration, politics, music, architecture, fashion and theory, making it a must-visit for any art student.
Truman Books, Farsley
If you like to get cosy with a book and a good cup of coffee, Truman Books might just be your new favourite haunt. This welcoming independent bookshop is also home to a cafe that’s known for its wonderful cakes. You’ll find all of the latest bestsellers here but if you’re looking for something that isn’t in stock Amanda and her friendly staff will happily order it in, usually with next day delivery. The shop also offers an exciting programme of daytime and evening events, including regular book signings and weekly storytime sessions for children. A review on Google describes the shop as a ‘real gem in Farsley,’ saying: ‘The staff couldn’t do more for you, their orders usually arrive within a day or two if a book isn’t in stock, and their coffee is lovely too. Love sitting in there doing some writing every now and again. Oh and they’ve started doing great events!’
The Bookish Type, Merrion Centre
Situated in the Merrion Centre in the heart of Leeds, The Bookish Type is an independent queer bookshop that champions LGBTIQA+ authors and books. You’ll find a great selection of queer literature here, including fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, memoirs, poetry, short stories, zines, colouring books and graphic novels. The Bookish Type was founded in 2020 and has been growing its community ever since. Owners Nic and Ray are known for their Queer History Tours around Leeds, as well as ‘Bookish Stroll’ – an outdoor book group where you can chat about a queer book as you take a walk in the park. The shop also hosts Second Hand Sundays where you can pick up pre-loved books while raising money for local grassroots LGBTIQA+ groups.
Travelling Man, Central Road
Travelling Man first opened its doors in Leeds in 1991 and has become a firm favourite among comic art and manga fans. The shop is now part of a small northern chain and prides itself on being the ‘UK’s friendliest graphic novels and boardgames store.’ You’ll find card games, collectibles and Warhammer here, as well as an abundant collection of books and magazines. A Google review says: ‘I have never seen so many board games in one place. Excellent selection of books, comics and graphic novels [and] helpful and enthusiastic staff with the appropriate geek credentials.’
Reading Roots Bookshop, Wetherby
Describing itself as a ‘sanctuary’ and a ‘portal to other worlds,’ Reading Roots was opened in 2020 by secondary school English teacher Keira and it has been drawing readers to Wetherby’s marketplace ever since. The shop hosts literary events, including book clubs, author talks, writing groups and collaborations with local schools. A visit here is worth the thirty minute drive from Leeds. Why not stop for lunch in a local cafe at the same time, or take a stroll around the grounds of Harewood House?
Photos: Village Books, Colours May Vary, The Bookish Type, The Little Bookshop