Monday, 7 November 2011

Radical bookshops' history

Some parts of one's past keep creeping back... After seventeen years hard labour in a radical bookshop, together with a couple of years on the board of another shop, and thousands of pounds spent on the written works of utopian dreamers and other such reprobates, it is hard to get away. Dave Cope, of Left on the Shelf - the second hand specialists - and I have put together an incomplete listing of radical bookshops in history, together with a bibliography of books, and even passing mentions in fiction, of radical bookshops. You can find the current listings on We are now trying to make that list as complete as we can, so any information would be welcome.

To accompany the site, I've started work on a more narrative history of radical bookshops, which will appear as a printed booklet sometime next year. With the Five Leaves Ship of State to run this will not be the last word on radical bookselling history, but it might encourage others to write something more substantial. I'd appreciate contact with anyone who has worked in radical bookselling in the past, any sources of records, any customer tales, photographs. Anything. Please send direct to me on

The new 2011 edition of North West Labour History Journal includes an article on the history of News from Nowhere in Liverpool, written by Mandy Vere, the matriarch of the shop. Copies are available from News from Nowhere. The bookshop pictured here is Radish, in Leeds, one of the new generation of radical shops. Both News from Nowhere and Radish, by the way, have excellent sections devoted to world music, as well as books.

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