A book lover’s guide to Newcastle
Main image courtesy of Amnesty Bookshop
If you’ve been down to the Quayside lately, you’ll have noticed NE1’s Summer in the City pop-up activities and entertainment, among which is the hugely popular storytime sessions Tales On The Tyne, which features free storytelling from Seven Stories every Tuesday morning. If you’ve been inspired by stories, or you’re a bookworm looking for ways to spend your time in the city, here’s our book lover’s guide to Newcastle!
The Lit & Phil, Westgate Road
A true Newcastle original, The Literary & Philosophical Society was established in 1793, and its current home on Westgate Road has been a hub of intellect and knowledge since 1825. The independent library became a focal point of the industrial revolution back in the day, a place where great minds like George Stephenson, Joseph Swan and Oscar Wilde spent time debating the important topics of their times amid curious books and artefacts from around the world. Nowadays, everyone is welcome to join and enjoy the stunning neoclassical building, pore through its collection of over 170,000 books, delve into the region’s largest music collection and enjoy regular events including lunchtime jazz and book launches.
The first stop for any bibliophile should be the city’s excellent public library, accessed via New Bridge Street West or from Princess Square. Across six storeys you’ll find a massive lending library which includes all manner of fiction and non-fiction books as well as access to eBooks and digital magazines, plus DVDs, board games, music and much more. Being a member of the library is about much more than books too – you’ll get three hours of computer access and free Wi-Fi, the opportunity to join classes to learn how to improve your digital skills, you can chat with business experts at the Skills Hub, dive into local history and learn how to study your family tree. The venue is also home to a 185-seat performance space, available to hire for music, performance or any other activity you can think of, and there are regular revolving exhibitions.
Seven Stories, Ouseburn Valley
Another unique attraction for Newcastle’s book lovers, Seven Stories is the national home for Children’s literature, and features seven floors (see what they did there?) chock full of inspirational exhibitions, special events, workshops, storytelling sessions and much more. The centre is home to collections from the likes of Philip Pullman, Enid Blyton, Judith Kerr, David Almond and many more, plus objects from over 250 authors and illustrators including manuscripts, drafts, proofs and editors notes, making it a fascinating place to learn about the history of children’s literature.
What’s more, entry to Seven Stories recently became free of charge, so everyone can access this wonderful resource.
Waterstones, Blackett Street
Situated in Emmerson Chambers, a beautiful baroque and art nouveau building just steps away from Grey’s Monument, Waterstones is the biggest bookshop in the city. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here, with four book-filled floors of delights. Their fiction range is extensive, with an excellent variety of children’s, young adult and graphic novels perfect for kickstarting young readers’ obsessions. You’ll find all the new bestsellers and a massive range of fiction, crime, thrillers and horrors, biographies, poetry and drama, plus a vast collection of non-fiction from art to photography, academic books to spirituality, and an excellent travel, maps and local history section too. If you need a breather while you’re shopping, the handy Cafe W is located on the first floor where you can grab a cuppa and peruse your potential purchases!
A staple of the high street since 1792, WHSmith is one of the UK’s most loved booksellers and stationery stores. The large Northumberland Street location is a one-stop shop for all your papery needs, with a huge selection of magazines, stationery and office equipment, toys, arts and crafts, games and books filling its shelves. Plus, you can also find a Post Office and a National Lottery kiosk. They offer a handy click and collect service if you’re browsing online, and accept the usual vouchers too. (Here’s one for the pub quiz trivia fans: the name stands for William Henry Smith, the name of the son of the shop’s original founder, Henry Walton Smith).
Travelling Man, Grainger Street
If you’re a gamer or graphic novel lover, the renowned Travelling Man is a must-stop on your shopping itinerary. Established in 1991, the friendly gaming and graphic novels specialists stock all manner of books including Manga, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and more, as well as board, card and role playing games (RPGs), model kits and miniature games. They also run regular gaming events and the shop’s a real hub of the community. In addition, you’ll find Travelling Man exclusives including signed books, and they sell gift cards too.
Newcastle Book Exchange, Grainger Market
A great secondhand bookshop, Newcastle Book Exchange is located in the historic Grainger Market and is always worth a browse. The family-run bookshop has been a staple of the market for over 15 years, and with the current owners since 2018. Specialising mostly in fiction novels, plus a range of true crime and tug-on-the-heartstrings biographies, the shop is perfect for keen readers on a budget as they offer credit in exchange for books donated, and if you read and return any book from the shop you’ll get 50% off the price of your next purchase. Bargain!
Forbidden Planet, Grainger Street
A must-stop for science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment fans, at Forbidden Planet’s megastore you can pick up everything from clothing and merch to collectables, toys and accessories, homeware, gifts and much more, all themed around graphic novels, gaming and comics. The store is a perfect place for collectors as well as casual browsers.
Blackwells, Percy Street
While Blackwells as a brand may be ostensibly thought of as a university bookshop, Blackwells still has much to interest non-students; as well as stocking a vast range of academic books they also have a hand-picked selection of fiction and non-fiction, plus an art shop and specialist games department too. You’ll find all the trending best-sellers on their shelves, as well as categories covering everything from politics to philosophy, food and drink to teen and YA.
A cracking little store on Westgate Road near the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, the Amnesty Bookshop is full of affordable secondhand books, with a constantly revolving collection. Run by the Amnesty International charity, their mix of stock is often eclectic and interesting, with a large creative writing, history and political section alongside contemporary fiction and non-fiction titles. They also sell greetings cards and ethically sourced gifts at Christmas, making it a great stop if you’re looking for something unique for loved ones too.
So, whether you’re looking for the next big literary masterpiece, a fun beach read or exciting graphic novel, the city has plenty of options to inspire your next tale on the Tyne!