“These days, we’ve got booksellers in cities, in deserts, and in the middle of a rain forest; we’ve got travelling bookshops, and bookshops underground. We’ve got bookshops in barns, in caravans and in converted Victorian railway stations. We’ve even got booksellers selling books in the middle of a war. Are bookshops still relevant? They certainly are. All bookshops are full of stories, and stories want to be heard.”
― Jen Campbell,
A love of books — and the shops where they are stored — has been a not-so-secret love of mine since childhood. When I travel somewhere new, I always feel like I can experience the soul of a place when I visit one of its bookstores.
One of my most memorable experiences as a bibliophile was my first visit to Powell’s City of Books, specifically its Rare Book Room. Powell’s is the world’s largest independent bookstore, with nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections — they even provide a map to help you find your way around.
And while I haven’t yet been here, The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles quickly went on my bookstore bucket list when I stumbled upon this video.
But at home and abroad, I’ve found even the most unassuming bookstores to be worth a visit.
Like McNally Jackson Booksellers, an independent bookstore in SoHo that prints indie books on its own printing press.
Or Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe in Bend, Oregon, that offers comfy reading nooks (which remind me of my own hometown’s quaint and cozy haunt, Trip Taylor Booksellers).
In countries outside the U.S., there are bookstores that have garnered worldwide acclaim — and plenty of others in spaces as much a treat for the eyes as the treasures that lie within.
Take the dark, elegant, and dazzling MENDO, for example. It’s a bookshop run by designers, a self-proclaimed “candy store for book aficionados” with its flagship location in Amsterdam. And while small, its aesthetic is nothing short of extraordinary, and a place I could spend a few hours perusing its collection — especially the oversized, color-rich eye-candy at the back of the store.
While I’ve yet to visit other historic bookstores like Strand, Paris’s Shakespeare and Company, or the stunning Libreria Acqua Alta (located on a centuries-old canal in Venice), lesser-known booksellers still have my heart.
Especially if they have cats.
Did you know there’s a bookshop in Hong Kong that takes in homeless felines? And even if one of my greatest regrets was not seeing the ol’ Shakespeare while visiting the city of lights, I did spy this very happy cat chillin’ on a pile of books in a store window near Canal Street.
March is National Reading Month, so as this several-week-long celebration approaches, why not visit your small, local bookstore and find something special on its shelves? You might even spy a collection of the feline variety.