With choruses of Robert Burns’ ‘Ayld Lang Syne’, and Burns night just around the corner, this is a rather seasonal offering for our Bookshop of the Month feature. This month we travelled to the Great White North of the UK, stopping off in Glasgow’s cosy Oswald Street Bookshop which is nestled on the banks of the river Clyde. Specialising in all things Scottish, no Gaelic stone is left unturned, with texts ranging from history, art, and maps, to children’s literature and poetry. This niche bookshop is a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic Scottish reading experience.
We had the chance to have a chat with bookshop assistant Naomi Berry about what makes Oswald Street Bookshop so special
What is your favourite thing about working in Oswald Street Bookshop?
Although we have a specialism (Scotland, about which more later) we have a huge variety of books – everything from architecture to history to politics to one of the biggest selections of books in Gaelic you’ll find anywhere in Glasgow. This attracts enthusiastic customers with diverse interests. We encourage a calm and friendly atmosphere, and I hope everybody feels welcome to have a quiet browse or ask questions/have a chat as they choose.
Why is it important to you to specialise in books about Scotland?
When Denis started the bookshop, it needed a theme. We don’t wish to appear narrow, but due to limited space it’s far better for us to try to cover one topic well, rather than trying to cram everything in. Hence, the books about Scotland. So far this strategy seems to be paying off. Our customers know they can come to us for niche or specialist works they won’t find elsewhere. As a more general point, I’d say there’s a lot of interest in local history, which we’re lucky to be able to tap into.
You’re based in Glasgow, and have a large selection of maps. What are your favourites?
Our antiquarian maps are beautiful and eye-catching, but they are also historical documents in their own right. Each of our Pont/Blaeu maps in particular offers its own unique perspective on Scotland in the 1580s and 90s. And to expand on that theme, we have a selection of Daniell prints, contemporary observations of Scotland in the 1800s.
What would your own personal map of Glasgow include?
Every bookshop, and everywhere with good cake!
Christmas reading list: what would you like to find in your stocking this year?
There’s a bit of a list… I’ve had my eye on a couple of anthologies; Out There, edited by Zoë Strachan, is an anthology of Scottish LGBT writing featuring new work by an impressive range of authors, and Be The First to Like This, edited by Colin Waters, is a collection of new Scottish poetry. Then I’d have the gorgeous The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland by Annette Carruthers, and Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Ernest Mehew, because everyone likes other people’s correspondence, and finally Fox, the first in Jim Crumley’s Encounters in the Wild series.
What can we expect from the Oswald Street Bookshop in the New Year?
We’re looking to expand our children’s section. A good proportion of our kids’ books are in Scots and Gaelic, and there are plenty of Scottish authors and publishers in there too. We want to continue to appeal to people’s interests while maintaining our idiosyncrasies, and our support of Scottish authors and publishers.
They are open 08:45 – 17:30 Monday – Wednesday & Friday – Saturday and 08:45 – 18:00 Thursday