Bookshops in Cheltenham

Most Creative Writing students at the University of Gloucestershire know about the big Waterstone’s on The Promenade, but Cheltenham has much more than this to offer booklovers. In particular, the town hosts two brilliant second hand bookstores and some highly recommended charity shops.

We have to start with Moss Books. It’s situated on Henrietta Street, just a few minutes’ walk from FCH Campus. You’ll find no smart-catalogued, bar-coded, electronic retrieval system, but you will find piles and piles of books. And I do mean piles – the shelves are so full that the books are often stacked in Manhattans on the floor. On the left-hand side of the shelf-stack that faces you as you enter, you’ll find hundreds of quality novels stacked two deep on shelving that stretches from the floor to the ceiling. They’re arranged in rough alphabetical order, but the real pleasure is to browse at random. On the reverse side of this shelving, you’ll find poetry collections, plays, and critical texts. The prices are written on the inside of the covers and vary according to the size of the book and its condition; however, the average price for a novel is about £2. In the summer they often have a sale in which they half the price of all stock. Moss Books is a delight – I’ve never left empty-handed.

Slightly further away, but equally worth a visit, is the delightful Attic Books and Moonstone Books. You’ll find it on St. James Street, at the far end of the High Street, near The Vine pub. I don’t know why the shop has two names (legacy of a merger, perhaps?), and this is the sort of mysterious quirk that makes this such a pleasurable place to browse. The books are packed tight together in small rooms with creaking floorboards. Much of the fiction and poetry is up a flight of stairs, beyond beams and doorways, under which one must stoop as if in reverence. The stock is far more ordered than in Moss Books, and it’s easier to find a work by a specific author. On average, the books are perhaps slightly more expensive than at Moss Books, but the prices are still very reasonable. What’s more, the owner will sometimes volunteer discounts if you’re buying several titles.

Finally, if you’re attempting the famous Bath Road pub crawl, make time to visit the British Red Cross charity bookshop. It’s a long thin room lined with everything from Jeffrey Archer to Raymond Carver. The books are a bargain and the cause is good.

Happy browsing!
Thanks to Matt Paul for suggesting this post.