Growing up, I was always fascinated by shops that held editions of literature which people willingly gave away, not knowing the value they actually held. I usually found these in charity shops or used bookstores. Unaware that certain editions of literature held a great richness in them, I always ended up hoarding them until I reached a certain age and finally realised that these books actually cost a lot of money. I was also fascinated by local book-binding stores that produced absolute beauties when it came to finding journals that I would constantly write in, filling the pages to the brim.
Moving to Cork last September gave me the opportunity to collect more, to buy more and to support the local arts and literature scene here in the city.
Below in this list I hold my favourite places to shop for books and art while being mindful of shopping local and making sure that the locals flourish:
Vibes and Scribes
When I first heard about this store I was immediately fascinated by the fact that they had a used bookstore. It was not uncommon for me to find similar stores to these back home in Bahrain, but I felt like I was able to grab onto the books that I had wanted for a long time and that my ‘dream’ of spending hours in a used bookstore was coming alive. I have found several great finds here that involve books for college as well. I would highly recommend students to venture into the sleeves of this store.
Oxfam [Cook Street]
This beautiful charity shop not only holds jewellery and brightly coloured clothes but also great treasures of books that people have knowingly given away. My greatest finds include a brand-new copy of George Orwell’s 1984, for only €1.50, and an illustrated first edition of Verne’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea – hardback edition, printed in 1968. One could say I was pretty delighted.
Badly Made Books [Friar Street]
This is somewhere one should go to if they are in desperate need of a sketchbook, planner, or journal. They offer great bargains, and everything is made from recycled materials and waste. It is an incredible find. It’s always a great idea to support local stores when it comes to little products like these.
Irish Cancer Society [Castle Street]
This charity shop is another iconic place where I have found the best bits, not only books, but clothes and artwork. Every time I enter this store, I find myself surrounded by a different kind of culture and it makes me so grateful for what I have and what I want to learn. One thing that I have learned from visiting this particular shop is that I shouldn’t go in expecting to find something that I need, but rather something that catches my eye. I was lucky enough to find a few books that I required for a few of my modules in second year, but that was after weeks and weeks of scanning through the shelves and hoping to find something. One of my best finds in the shelves of this store was a book that I found such passion for, titled Purple Hibiscus, for a great bargain.
In my personal opinion, I prefer buying books from used bookstores and/or charity shops, just because they have so much colour in them from their previous owners. The scent of old books and brand-new ones, that you can get for a great bargain, brings out the bookworm in me. However, I feel this is a great way for international students to immerse themselves in a fresh new culture that they have just moved into. Browsing through charity shops, used bookstores, or local coffee shops that host local artwork allows you to start embracing the culture that surrounds you, and to eventually start to become a part of it.
Supporting local is a way to help the shops here in Cork City stay alive. Many of them adhere to the budget of students and are easily accessible. Not only do you get the best finds, but you also become friends with your local bookstore, charity shop, etc. – which I find is the way to go. Hopefully one will be able to embrace Cork City through these recommendations.