Category Archives: Inverness

Britain’s Best Secondhand Bookshop?

“Wow!” Charles Leakey says he often hears it said from people entering his secondhand bookshop. No wonder, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of 100,000 books and maps. You just know that with a little effort you’ll find something magic in there. Indeed it feels a bit like something from a Harry Potter film.

Leakey’s occupies a Gaelic church built around 1793, Charles took it over 22 years ago. Given the almost religious devotion that many us have to books and reading, it’s a good place to put the shop. “It’s a large building and I could fill a building ten times this size with books that nobody wanted. It’s all a matter of selecting books that people like and want and that’s my job I suppose. That’s what I try to do.”

Charles Leakey secondhand bookshop owner portrait photograph

Charles Leakey works beneath the pulpit in his former church

There’s a big wood-burning stove, but it wasn’t lit when we visited in the middle of summer – the temperature was well into the upper teens. (Scorcher) More people were taking photographs than buying books. I really hope the shop can survive in the our online and device-obsessed world. “Even if digital books replace print, the market for second-hand books will remain.” Says Charles.

I think that a large, high-quality photography book is a much better way to see the majestic landscape pictures of Ansel Adams than a website. A book is easier to peruse, to see the detail, to see into the picture. There’s a danger that the ‘digital natives’ grow up unaware of the page-turning pleasures, and that the sheer convenience and ubiquity of our mobile phones outweighs the inferiority of the viewing experience. I found a book about Rembrandt. I love the Dutch masters and try to emulate their aesthetic in my family portraiture so I wanted it. ‘Rembrandt’s Eyes’ is written by Simon Sharma, he’s a good writer, so I bought it. Unfortunately, I could find very few photography books on Leakey’s heaving shelves of secondhand books, or I might have bought more!

Inside Leakey's secondhand bookshop, Inverness

Get lost in a good book (shop)

Church St, Inverness, 01463 239947,