Bookstores can be a destination.
From Venice to Mexico City, check out some of the most interesting book retailers out there.
1. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy.
This bookstore features classic volumes of American and Italian books packed in traditional Venetian gondola boats. But the show-stopping attraction is the back of the bookstore, which opens up to a beautiful canal.
“It’s a bookshop right on the canal that floods every year, so the eccentric, stray-cat-adopting owner keeps his books in boats, bathtubs and a disused gondola to protect them,” writes Paris Review.
The store is also lauded for its extensive art and postcard collections.
2. John K. King Used And Rare Books, Detroit, Michigan.
This houses more than a million books in an abandoned glove factory in Detroit’s industrial wasteland.
“Cardboard signs, musty paperback aromas, and a hand-scrawled map out of a Wes Anderson panic attack are your only tour guides as you lose track of time and the person you came with,” writes Megan Cytron at Trazzler.
Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Holland.
This epic bookstore is a converted Dominican church from the 13th century. The serene alcoves of the church now serve as reading nooks.
“A superb example of adaptive re-use, the Selexyz Dominicanen infuses rich and historic architecture with plentiful shelves ripe with information,” writes Diane Pham at inhabitant.com.
4. BookPeople, Austin, Texas.
Texas’ largest independent bookstore is situated in the trendy Market District of Austin, Texas. The store prides itself on its knowledgable staff and epic selections.
“Tending to more books than anyone could read in a lifetime — from international bestsellers to a remarkable showing of local authors, BookKids to MysteryPeople — plus almost daily events and a quirky collection of toys, BookPeople’s wonderful staff are on their toes expanding horizons and making literary dreams come true,” the Austin Chronicle raves.
5. Strand, New York City.
This East Village retailer boasts 18 miles of books.
“Its prices and selection are seldom beat, and there’s still the unique thrill of finding a copy of The Grapes of Wrath once belonging to the Rikers Correctional Library in their 49-cent bin,” writes Gothamist.
6. Livraria Lello & Irmao, Porto, Portugal.
This gorgeous, 100-year-old bookstore is known for its stunning architecture and “stairway to heaven.”
“Once inside, there is the curvaceous red stairway connecting the two levels (inspired on the Parisian Galleries Lafayette), the heavily decorated walls and ceilings, and the magnificent stained-glass skylight with Lello’s motto vecus in labore will no doubt impress you,” one visitor writes on bookstoreguide.org.
7. The Bookworm, Beijing, China.
The Bookworm is both a lending library and a bookstore with a ridiculously expansive collection. There’s also a gourmet European cafe on the premises.
“We love this Beijing spot when we’re craving a double-dose of intellectual stimulation and decent café food. Thousands of English-language books fill the shelves and may be borrowed for a fee or read inside. New books and magazines are also for sale,” writes Fodor’s Travel.
8. El Ateneo, Buenes Aires, Argentina.
This bookstore is housed in an ornate theatre building from the 1920’s. Customers can sit in still-intact theatre boxes to relax and browse their books.
“While the selection of books on offer is standard chain store fare, bibliophiles will find the staggeringly opulent display of books to be reason enough to pay El Ateneo Grand Splendid a visit,” according to Atlas Obscura.
9. Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico.
This bookstore and cafe has ample greenery inside.
“At once bar, cafe and bookstore, the Cafebreria El Pendulo offers a well air conditioned abode for reading and lounging, and living plants decorate the interior,” The Huffington Post writes.
10. Books & Books, Coral Gables, Florida.
This Miami-area bookstore is especially known for its great selection of art titles and is housed in a stunning building from the 1920’s.
“No local author considers himself “made” until he’s read at Books & Books, and no lit-minded visitor considers a vacation complete until he’s browsed for autographed stock in at least one of the stores,” CBS Local writes, adding that the store has constant special events.
11. Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France.
The original Shakespeare & Company on Paris’ Left Bank was a hangout for Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, but closed during World War Two.
The store re-opened in 1951 and has become a popular favourite because of its ambience and selection.
“Time has not sundered the love-in between literature and Paris’s Left Bank,” writes Time. “The Shakespeare and Company bookstore has long been a fixture of the affair.”
12. Politics & Prose, Washington D.C.
This bookstore in the nation’s Capitol is best-known for its amazing line-up of speakers. Past guests have included J.K. Rowling and Bill Clinton.
“Priding itself on its well-read staff and inside-the-Beltway speakers, this bookstore dating to 1984 makes its home in a nondescript neighbourhood north of the Van Ness metro,” writes Travel & Leisure. “Politics and Prose combines impressive on-site inventory with a pleasant downstairs cafe.”
13. Bart’s Books, Ojai, California.
Bart’s books is the largest outdoor bookstore in the world, and is situated in a picturesque town in Southern California.
“Bart’s Books is a beautiful outdoor bookstore where you can sip lemonade in the courtyard surrounded by a maze of bookshelves, play a game of chess in the shade or read a short story under the apple tree,” writes travel and lifestyle blogger Messy Nessy Chic.
14. Corso Como, Milan, Italy.
This gorgeous bookstore, named one of the 10 most beautiful in the world, doubles as a flea market and is sure to keep everyone entertained.
“Corso Como is a wonderful low profile high-end fashion, café, bookstore, and art hub in one of the nicer parts of Milan,” a fan of the store writes on Yelp. “If you’re not careful you can walk right past this place, but when you enter into its gates you know you are in for an experience.”
15. Barter Books, Alnwick, UK.
This shop used to be a train station, and miniature trains still go around the shelves. The architecture, which includes rounded ceilings and decorative lighting, is stunning.
“The books range from such categories as paperback and fiction, poetry and plays, history, philosophy or women studies to crime, biography, business and economics and even such topics as transport, maritime, gardening, needlework, etc.,” according to bookstoreguide.org.
“Barter Books also has open fires in the winter, a station buffet with a menu made up of home-made and/or locally sourced food (both hot and cold) and speciality coffees and teas, and a children’s room filled with toys,” according to the guide.
16. Prairie Lights, Iowa City, Iowa.
This bookstore is next door to the University of Iowa’s famous Writer’s Workshop, a program with famous alums including Kurt Vonnegut.
“Owned by a pair of poets, the shop features 40,000 titles leaning heavily toward fiction, travel, children’s, and — no surprise — poetry,” writes Travel & Leisure magazine.
17. Boulder Books.
This eclectic bookstore is known for its indie vibes and knowledgable staff. It’s also a hub for famous authors’ readings and book signings.
“Despite its size, Boulder Bookstore has the feel of that around-the-corner gathering place that is a favourite to frequent, linger, read, visit and shop,” writes CBS Denver.
Authors who have visited in the past include Christopher Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Deepak Chopra, Garrison Keillor, Jon Krakauer, Mitch Albom, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Gilbert, Terry Prachett, and Sherman Alexie.
18. Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon.
This former car dealership takes up an entire city block and boasts more than 1 million titles.
“The sixty-eight-thousand-square-foot space is divided into nine colour-coded rooms, which together house more than 3,500 sections,” writes Poets & Writers. “From the moment you walk in, it feels as if you could find anything there.”
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