“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, The Bookshop Book

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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This bookish kitty in Paris is living the good life.

 

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.

 

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