In the latest in a new series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, Anthony McDonnell, Assistant Editor of LSE Review of Books, shares his favourite bookshops in his home town of Galway. Anthony discusses three bookshops that are definitely worth a visit should you find yourself in the West of Ireland.
Connemara in the west of County Galway is famed for containing Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area), with its scenic beauty and a dedication to Irish culture and tradition that is sadly dying out in the rest of the country. It is no wonder then that this area is loved by tourists and literature buffs alike. The Clifden Bookshop is located in Clifden, Connemara’s biggest town. It captures a sense of the history of the area with a great selection of Irish literature, local and Irish history books, as well as Irish language books, maps and interesting memoirs. While off the beaten track, it is somewhere to go if you are looking for books and information related to the Irish language, Gaeltacht communities, and Irish culture. If you are lucky enough to be passing though this part of the west of Ireland it is definitely worth dropping by.
Charlie Byrne is a large independent bookshop, right in the heart of Galway city centre (Cornstore Mall). Last year it won the 2013 Irish Times Best Bookshop of the Year Award, and it has a special place in the hearts of many. Upon walking in, visitors are immediately struck by the sense of clutter: shelves are not stacked in the neat and orderly fashion that we have come to expect from modern retail, but instead laid out like that of the private bookshelves of an enthusiastic reader. Everything from sport to archaeology is covered, and academics through to general readers should find some real gems. Combined with places to sit, exceptional staff and a wonderful collection of books old and new, there are few things nicer to do than spend a day picking up and reading books here. I have always been drawn to the large history section, but it has plenty to offer in Irish literature and most of the arts and humanities. It has been seven years since I moved away from my home town on the West Coast of Ireland, but a better bookshop I am still yet to find.
Eason’s is the household name in bookshops in Ireland, and their store on Galway’s main retail street, Shop Street, is a popular spot with university and college students for stocking up on stationery for the start of term. Downstairs you’ll find all of the bestselling books, magazines, along with an impressive range of news publications from around the world. Upstairs you can find school books, stationery, and the non-book related goods and accessories that we have come to expect from our bookshops. I have fond memories of coming here to read football magazines with friends during school lunch hour, getting caught up in the excited bustle of last minute Christmas shoppers every December, and returning late every August to buy school supplies for the forthcoming year.
Anthony Mcdonnell is Assistant Editor on the LSE Review of Books. Anthony joined PPG in February 2013 and has been working on the Review of Books since November. Anthony is a graduate of history and political science from Trinity College Dublin, currently doing a Master’s in public and economic policy at the LSE. He previously spent a year working in Malawi.