There’s just something about used books that cannot be compared to the ones that come fresh out from the oven. Some call it “bibliosmia”, that typical pleasing book-smell caused by the chemical breakdown of paper, ink and glue, while others are repelled by it. One thing is certain, second-hand books have their distinctive charm and history and Dublin can really attest that.
It’s this particular attachment to a book that doesn’t always appear with other physical objects that has contributed to the appeal and appreciation of second-hand book stores in Dublin and around the world. For most people this is a vital part of the reading experience, when the book smell hits you, it unconsciously connects you to memories, as you run your fingers through the pages with their worn edges and torn covers. So, unless you prefer going to the library, we’ve rounded up seven second-hand bookshops for all the bibliophiles, avid readers and bibliomaniacs of Dublin.
1. Ulysses Rare Books
This first bookshop has a wonderfully inviting blue facade. Formerly known as Cathach Books, this beautiful bookshop has a long history of providing an unrivalled selection of rare editions by James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien and many other Irish authors.
Ulysses Rare Books specialises in Irish literature, history and topography, with a collection that starts from the 17th century to the recent past. You can’t help but be impressed as you walk between the aisles of books and revere the editions that soon became influential works of some of the most noted Irish authors. For those that prefer contemporary literature, they also offer a selection of first edition books by the likes of Poe, Pratchett and more.
📍 10 Duke St, Dublin 2
Technically this place holds old and new books, but it’s their core values of sustainability and social responsibility that really make the difference. For this reason, they hold the books in stock longer and have an extensive collection of second-hand books on any topic imaginable. They don’t treat books as fast-moving consumer goods, but rather as gems and family heirlooms you can pass on to your loved ones. And we couldn’t agree more.
📍 Ivy Exchange, Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin 1
3. The Village Bookshop
The Village Bookshop is an independent, family-run bookshop located in Terenure Village in Dublin. They have an eclectic mix of new, used, rare and out-of-print books, but their used books collection comprises autobiographies, books on politics and economics, Irish language, travel, and more. Keep an eye out for them at markets and festivals, because they also have their own bookstalls at Electric Picnic, All Together Now, and at some Dublin weekend markets.
📍 101 Terenure Rd N, Terenure, Dublin 6W
4. The Secret Bookstore
“When the kindle tried to kill us; when the twin towers came down, we sold books: new and second hand.” The Secret Bookstore has survived all the financial, technological and health crises of the last few decades and they continue to operate with humour and wit to this day. You can find biographies, fiction and everything in between and you might also encounter a sought-after record or two.
But The Secret Bookstore’s vowed not to sell any ghostwritten celeb exposés, “business bibles” and “nothing that exploits”. And frankly, hear hear! So, if you’re also tired by some of the nonsense of the publishing world, The Secret Bookstore is the choice for you.
📍 15A Wicklow Street, Dublin 2
5. Stokes Books
This gem of a bookshop is probably the bookworm’s heaven, with shelves of books stacked from floor to ceiling. Located in the heart of the city, Stokes Books might have the largest collection of secondhand books in the city. The owner of the shop, Stephen Stokes, is a walking encyclopedia, so if ever in doubt, give him a shout and he will give you a hand-picking material.
📍 19 Market Arcade, South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2
See also: A Walking Tour of Dublin’s City Centre
6. The Winding Stair
Named after Yeats’ Winding Stair, this little independent bookshop is famous for its quaint decor and really warm and comfy atmosphere. Its second-hand collection isn’t as broad as some of the others’, but if you’re around Ha’penny Bridge, it’s definitely a must-visit place. They have a considerable collection of Irish authors, poetry, drama, current affairs, gardening, cookery, art and design, humour, non-fiction and a brilliant children’s section. This place has also made our best bookshops list, because you can cosy up at the store, sit back and bury yourself in a book.
📍 40 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1
7. Raven Books
This is another great example of Dublin’s independent bookshops. Situated in the heart of Blackrock Village in South County, it offers a mix of new and second-hand books. Opened only months before the 2008 financial crisis, it was its commitment to community that helped it continue to offer its customers and random browsers a broad range of books, including fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels and illustrations. It’s open every day, so you can pop in whenever you feel like it.
📍 34 Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin