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Save The Books...Unique Bookstores of the World

Updated on November 2, 2016
Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Travel Book Mementos

Over the years and countries I've collected many memento books, here's a few of my favorites:

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (Hanoi, Vietnam)
  • Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Ambergris Caye, Belize)
  • In the Name of Salome by Julia Alvarez (Santiago, Dominican Republic)
  • The Kingdom by Clive Cussler (Hong Kong)
  • The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne (Paris, France)
  • Air America by Christopher Robbins (Phuket, Thailand)
  • The Thread by Victoria Hislop (Rethymnon, Crete)
  • Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan (New York City, USA)
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (Izmir Book Festival, Turkey)
  • Lords of the Horizon by Jason Goodwin (Troy, Turkey)

Bookstores In Need

There is nothing quite like entering a good bookstore. Not one of those brand new, shiny, organized shops but a cluttered, slightly dusty, cozy, bibliophile's dream. The kind of place you got lost in as a kid, snuggled into a tight corner with C.S Lewis, Louisa May Alcott or Lucy Maud Montgomery. Where the desk clerk just raised an eyebrow or exchanged a crooked smile but rarely broke the holy silence.

There are not too many of those little sanctuaries left. Outsold by chain stores and losing customers to the alluring single digit prices of internet book sales, they are a dying breed. I feel a pang of guilt when I enter my local bookstore thinking of all the books I've bought on Amazon and Half.com. But even my stinging conscience can't distract me from the lure of the faded rows of bindings and the worn sofa in the corner.

In a small act of redemption I've made it a tradition to buy a book in each country I enter. I prefer used books; the mystery of the previous owner and the already cracked spine is a temptation I can rarely resist. Over the years I've bought books from street fairs, airports, book stalls, antique stores and good old fashioned bookstores, each one a small rectangle of memory; a snapshot of an afternoon in Izmir, a Sunday morning in Greece or an after dinner browse in Paris.

If you too have lately strayed from the purer faith of your bookstore youth to the dark side of internet shopping, find a bookstore on your next trip, maybe you'll rekindle that lost love, and gain a memento in the process.

Bookstores On My Travel Wish List

Through the years I've kept a list of the unique, historical or just plain lovely bookstores I've read or heard about, here are my favorites.

The Abbey Bookshop
The Abbey Bookshop | Source

The Abbey Bookshop, Paris France

Located at 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie in Paris's Latin Quarter this little gem has all the nostalgia and golden dustiness of Shakespeare and Co. with less tourists. It was closed when I passed it in Paris a few years ago and I've been kicking myself ever since for not going back later...a good excuse to make another trip.

Word on Water
Word on Water | Source

Word on Water, London UK

Mooring two weeks at a time at Camden Lock, Angel, Hackney and Paddington this floating bookstore is a quirky literary treasure. The bookshop barge is the only one of its kind in London and is run by three men fittingly know as "the doctor", "the professor" and "the captain".

Bart's Books
Bart's Books | Source

Bart’s Books, Ojai, California

The largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the U.S, The shop was born in the 1960s when the owner began selling his personal book collection on shelves outside the door, letting the customers pay by the honor system, a practice that the now famous store still honorably practices.

Libreria El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Libreria El Ateneo Grand Splendid | Source

Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Argentina

Originally a theater called Grand Splendid the vast open room that is now the Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid had capacity for an audience of over 1,000 people. In later years it became a radio station, then a cinema and now finally a bookstore. As seen in the picture above, the current tenants have kept the elegance of the old theater and in the place of all those seats there are now books.

Faulkner House Books
Faulkner House Books | Source

Faukner House Books

Located at 624 Pirate’s Alley in New Orleans French Quarter, the shop is housed in the apartment where William Faulkner shifted from poetry to prose and where he penned Soldier's Pay. The little shop specializes in Southern authors including Tennessee Williams and Walker Percy.

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Located on Rua das Carmelitas the historic store was built in 1906 by architect Xavier Esteves. Its stunning exterior and interior Neo-Gothic design are unexpected and yet appropriate for a temple dedicated to the written word. And like any great spot it is not without diversity, the upstairs houses a small cafe with coffee and wine.

Brazen Head Books
Brazen Head Books | Source

Brazenhead Books, NYC

Located at 235 East 84th Street Brazen Head Books is hidden...literally. Here in an old apartment, stacked to the ceiling with volumes it truly is all about the books. Technically not a bookstore, more of a mecca for all things literary, it seems to exist solely in the spirit of a good literature and good company.

Montague Bookmill, MA, USA
Montague Bookmill, MA, USA

My Favorite Bookstores...So Far.

show route and directions
A markerMontegue Book Mill -
440 Greenfield Rd. Montague MA
get directions

B markerShakespeare and Company -
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
get directions

C markerThe Strand Bookstore -
Broadway & 12th Street, Queens, NY 11106, USA
get directions

D markerBrattleboro Books -
36 Elliot Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA
get directions

E markerRaven Used Books -
4 Old South Street, Northampton, MA 01060, USA
get directions

F markerAtlantis Books, Oia Santorini -
Oia, Greece
get directions

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    • JimTxMiller profile image

      Jim Miller 4 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

      If you ever make it out to the left coast, be sure to check in at Powell's City of Books. 1005 W. Burnside, Portland, OR.

    • brownella profile image
      Author

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Thanks. I'll be sure to look for it if I'm ever in Portland. I haven't explored much of the western US, but I have a cross country roadtrip on my bucket list, hopefully I'll get to that one soon.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a charming hub! I loved reading this. Where I live there are no more small bookstores left. All we have is Barnes and Nobles period. I would love to visit all these bookstores you have in this hub. Thanks for sharing your information and I think it is grand that you buy a book in each country that you visit. What a wonderful idea. Voted up and shared!

    • profile image

      Mklow1 3 years ago

      Fantastic Hub! I could almost smell the old paper when I saw the first picture.

      Suzettenaples,

      Don't give up yet, you would be surprised what you have near by you. I once lived in Birmingham, AL and decided to take a stroll through downtown during my lunch break and stumbled on a store that might not have the allure of being in Paris, but had all of the charm that you could ever hope to find. It never advertised, so I wouldn't have known if I hadn't taken a walk and seen it, but from then on I spent as much time there as I could until I moved. Here is the website:

      http://jimreedbooks.com/index.php

      Otherwise, I have always found a bookstore in local libraries that each have their own personalities depending on the volunteers.

    • brownella profile image
      Author

      brownella 3 years ago from New England

      I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I am definitely a bookworm but I think I may love good bookstores just as much as the books they hold. Good luck on your local bookstore hunt :)

    • brownella profile image
      Author

      brownella 3 years ago from New England

      Sounds like you're a kindred spirit Mklow1. Thanks for reading :)

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 4 months ago from Tennessee

      What a wonderful Hub! I love this type of bookstore. There is a charming little book called 84 Charring Cross Road about NYC resident and her relationship with a small bookstore in London.

      I would also recommend Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi.

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