Save The Books...Unique Bookstores of the World
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, 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, 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, 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
My Favorite Bookstores...So Far.
- Shakespeare and Company, Paris: Located at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris France http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/
- The Montague Bookmill: Located at 440 Greenfield Rd. Montague MA. http://www.montaguebookmill.com/index.html
- The Strand Bookstore: Located at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway, NYC. http://www.strandbooks.com/
- Brattleboro Books: Located at 36 Elliot St. Brattleboro, VT http://www.brattleborobooks.com/
- Atlantis Books: Located in the town of Oia, Santorini, Greece http://atlantisbooks.org/
- Raven Used Books: Located at 4 Old South Street Northampton, MA. http://ravenusedbooks.com/