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Places to Read in Manchester

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by Rachael McIntyre (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer working in Manchester.
Published February 7th 2017
A haven for bookworms
Manchester has a rich literary heritage, which can clearly be seen from the numerous buildings dedicated to books dotted around the city. If you're a bookworm and you happen to find yourself in Manchester, you're in for a treat. So enjoy perusing at your leisure at one of these fabulous venues.

Chetham's Library Marx Engles books manchester
Chetham's Library has a rich history


Chetham's Library

Chetham's Library is the oldest, free public reference library in the UK. It was bought by Humphrey Chetham back in 1653 to provide a place of research, since there was no facility at the time in the North of England for independent study. The beautiful sandstone building in which it resides dates back to 1421 when it provided accommodation for the priests of Manchester's Collegiate Church.

It operates as a charity and anyone can access the library for free (although if you're intending to read or research you must give 24 hours notice.) It is well worth booking yourself on a tour of the building to give you a chance to find out more about its vast history.

The library contains 100,000 volumes of printed books, 60,000 of which were printed before 1851. Chetham's has gone down in history as the place where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels first met when Marx visited Manchester in 1845. The research that they carried out in the library contributed ultimately to their work on The Communist Manifesto.

Whilst visiting Chetham's Library, it is definitely worth attending one of the lunchtime concerts which are held at Chetham's School of Music (based in the same building). Concerts take place every weekday during term time at 1.30pm and are completely free. It is always worth checking before turning up in case there are any changes on 0161 834 9644.

John Rylands Library, Deansgate

When Enriqueta Rylands' husband died, she wanted to build him the most beautiful library in the world. No expense was spared and this gorgeous gothic building took 10 years to complete, opening finally in 1900. The most superior materials were sourced from all around the world to help furnish the interiors. What better memorial could you have for your late husband?

John Rylands Library books Manchester history
The John Rylands Library has a stunning interior


The magnificence of the John Rylands Library, which is now part of the University of Manchester, has not diminished. It now houses over 250,000 printed volumes and over a million manuscripts which are carefully preserved. A modern extension was added in 2003 which enables full accessibility and houses a lovely cafe and shop.

The highlight of the entire building has to be the Historic Reading Room, which offers small alcoves for private reading, beautiful vaulted ceilings and stunning stained-glass windows. Around the edges of the building are statues of key figures from the history of religion, literature, science and printing – see how many you can recognise.

Whether you want to mooch around and enjoy the gorgeous architecture and exhibitions, or simply use it as a stunning backdrop to read and think, it truly is every book-lover's paradise.
The library is open seven days a week, is free to visit, and holds regular events and exhibitions.

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Cambridge Street

If you're a fan of Clockwork Orange and want to find out more about the man who created this chilling story, this is the place to visit. Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester and actually wrote 33 novels in his lifetime. He was a man of many talents; as well as being an author and linguist, he also composed more than 250 musical works.

The Anthony Burgess Foundation has an extensive collection of books, as well as an archive of rare books, manuscripts and correspondence.

It only opens for limited times. For more information visit the webiste.


Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square


Central Library Manchester St Peter's Square books
Manchester Central Library stants proud in St Peter's Square


Manchester Central Library first opened its doors in 1934 and has since undergone a magnificent transformation following a £50m refurbishment in 2010. As well as holding books, the library now offers exhibition and performance spaces.

The building is huge, and includes digital archives on the ground floor, a children's reading area on the lower ground and the magnificent Wolfson Reading Room on the first floor. It also holds a collection of rare books which can be accessed with prior arrangement.

The Library itself is perfect for research; it has archives where you can search family history, access rare books and local and national newspapers. It also houses the Henry Watson Music Library.

There is a media lounge where you will find iMacs, gaming consoles and the latest creative software such as Adobe Creative Suite. Anyone is welcome to use this area.

It's a beautiful building to explore, and a fabulous example of how such a historic building can add new technology to enhance the overall experience for visitors.

Manchester Central Library is open Mondays – Saturdays but it closes on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Paramount Books, Shudehill

If you can't think of anything better than browsing narrow shelves for that perfect second-hand find, head to Paramount Books. This quirky shop has shelves piled high with all kinds of pre-loved books including a brilliant range of comic books. It's definitely worth a visit to see what rare treats you can find.
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Why? If you love books.
Where: Manchester City Centre
Your Comment
Nice article!
by Jay Johnson (score: 2|924) 190 days ago
Great summary. Good tip on John Rylands library - as a place to read (as well as attend literary events)
by David Keyworth (score: 1|62) 184 days ago
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