It is safe to say that the recent announcement of the closure of Chapters bookstore on Parnell Street early next year has dealt a painful hand to Dublin’s bookworms, not to mention putting another dent in the city’s already fragile cultural sphere. There was no joy quite like roaming the aisles of this particular shop, where one could find the most recent bestsellers, endless amounts of stationery, and delve into the shop’s focal attraction: its impressive second-hand section. From general fiction to fantasy, gardening to Irish history, even a stand labelled “I’ve Been Meaning to Read That” — the sections were niche but numerous. It was undoubtedly always a challenge to leave the place empty-handed. I fear that in this vastly evolving world, a shop like Chapters will be hard to come by again in Dublin’s fair city. Alas, we are lucky enough to have a multitude of bookstores dotted around us that are sure to help fill the void.
It just cannot be omitted from any list of Dublin’s bookshops. Hodges and Figgis on Dawson Street, a stone’s throw away from Trinity, is a staple of student life in Dublin. Floors full of titles from each and every genre and enthusiastic, passionate staff that are always on-hand with recommendations — a stroll through Hodges and Figgis is a tonic for the soul. Whilst they do not have a second-hand section, there are very few titles that are not in stock, and an added incentive comes in the form of their loyalty stamp card: a stamp for every €10 spent, and a discount for the same amount after 10 stamps. The doors of Hodges and Figgis offer an escape route from the hustle and bustle of Luas commuters into a booklover’s paradise.
“Lilliput Press specialises in providing the literary world with some of the finest works that Irish writing has to offer.”
I was lucky enough to hear through the grapevine about this hidden gem. A small, independent bookstore and publisher located just off Stoneybatter, Lilliput Press specialises in providing the literary world with some of the finest works that Irish writing has to offer. The store’s ambience alone has a somewhat magnetic effect. In the pre-pandemic era, every customer would be invited to help themselves to tea or coffee while they browsed, and the company employed many students who also got to read new submissions on behalf of the publishers — a dream job, some might say. My own first experience of the wonderful titles published by Lilliput Press was Elske Rahill’s masterpiece, Between Dog and Wolf, a stunning coming-of-age tale set in Trinity. This shop is snug, peaceful and full of unforgettable titles. Although relatively hidden, once found, Lilliput is a place that one won’t resist another visit.
Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street is another quirky spot around the corner from College that holds historical significance. It is Ireland’s oldest independent bookshop that stocks an impressive range of titles, as well as an array of insightful literary magazines. Following its establishment, this store was one of the first in the country to offer books on scarcely represented topics, such as psychology and feminism. Their second-hand section is located downstairs and mirrors that of Chapters, with its immense selection providing something for everyone. Of course, one cannot forget their beautiful café located upstairs, overlooking the bustling D’Olier Street.
“The Winding Stair on Ormond Quay, named so after a poem composed by W.B. Yeats, is a delightfully cosy shop which overlooks the River Liffey and prides itself on its outstanding selection of Irish literature.”
The Winding Stair
Calling this bookstore a cultural treasure is an understatement. The Winding Stair on Ormond Quay, named so after a poem composed by W.B. Yeats, is a delightfully cosy shop which overlooks the River Liffey and prides itself on its outstanding selection of Irish literature. While they stock titles from various genres, their dedicated Irish Authors section is always worth a browse, as is their selection of beautiful literary gifts.
The Last Bookshop
Though it’s been a while since I ventured into this part of the city, I still remember my first visit to The Last Bookshop on Camden street as if it were yesterday. In terms of places to find pre-loved books in Dublin, this store is unmatched. On entering, the alluring waft of the all too familiar old book smell hits you, and you find yourself sifting through boundless collections. It cannot be said that the layout of the shelves is overly tidy or genre-specific, but all that does is add to the enjoyment of hunting for your next paperback.
The majority of us will be mourning the loss of the magnificent Chapters for a while, but there are myriad bookshops still at our fingertips. With Christmas fast approaching, it is also worth noting that some of the best collections of books are waiting to be discovered in the many charity shops around Dublin city. A huge chunk of the entertainment factor is skimming through the piles of pre-loved books and unmasking unique editions, often stumbling upon remarkable finds. The Oxfam and St. Vincent de Paul stores on George’s Street always have a huge supply of books, and this is likely the case in all of their store locations. It is an opportunity to give back to others while giving yourself the gift of another great read. It is also important not to cast aside the often disingenuously used “support local” narrative. We have become increasingly accustomed to online shopping as a result of the pandemic, and for those who prefer a virtual browsing experience away from the mayhem of the crowds, there are several Irish book websites that offer a massive range of titles and a fantastic delivery service for almost criminally low prices, such as kennys.ie and thebookshop.ie.
“There is a tendency nowadays to assume that the screen is rapidly replacing the book, and while it may ring true for some, bookshops still provide a safe haven for many kinds of people.”
There is a tendency nowadays to assume that the screen is rapidly replacing the book, and while it may ring true for some, bookshops still provide a safe haven for many kinds of people. Chapters will be greatly missed, but the thrill of venturing into a bookshop to acquire your next read is not a lost concept, thanks to the host of alternative spots all around us.