In today’s society, it is easy to assume that bookstores are a dying trade. With chain bookstores and sites such as Amazon and Book Depository, it seems only natural that book lovers would search for their books in these cheaper retails environments rather than in independent stores. However, there is a quiet revival of independent bookstores happening. The American Booksellers Associations tells us that the number of independent bookstores has increased more than 20% since 2009, whilst at the same time large stores such as Borders are going bankrupt.
Whilst big stores and online retailers try to sell a lot of books for a cheap price, they are missing the reason why buyers go into independent bookstores- they want a small selection. They want an inspiring environment, and to feel that they are in a place where only true book lovers go- something that chain stores cannot offer them. Whilst they have a big selection, they are not offering an intimate experience to the reader. Book buyers to not want to go into a store and see only new books, with all old books being put in a bargain bin. They want to search through the shelves looking for the forgotten classics and the hidden gems, the dusty old books at the back that look used and loved.
Books can now be downloaded straight to your phone, your Kindle, your iPad- but with the sale of books in independent stores having gone up 8% this year- which surpasses the amount the sale of books in general rose- it is joyous to see that although we could all sit in our homes and download our books, we don’t. We still want the brick-and-mortar booksellers, and we still want to hold a book and feel it in our hands. Bookstores are full of culture, they are sanctuaries and they can open up whole universes to us. To celebrate the humble bookstore, Living 360 has compiled a list of our favorite bookstores in the world.
Who? Shakespeare and Company
What? This cultural phenomenon opened it’s doors in 1951. The bookstore looks like it could be in a Hemingway book- and indeed it is. Although is the not the first Shakespeare and Company, it is the successor, as the original closed down in 1941 and the name was given to this store in 1958. Shakespeare and Company is part of Hemingway’s memoir ‘A Moveable Feast’, and from day one this bookstore has invited writers to take on residences, allowing four writers to stay from up to one night to a month.
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore | 37 rue de la Bucherie Latin Quarter, 75005 Paris France
Who? Assouline Venezia
What? This bookstore, located on the ground floor of the Bauer Hotel was opened by luxury publisher Assouline in 2014. The interior design is beautiful, and the store stocks some of the most expensive books the label offers, books that are handcrafted and delve into fashion, travel and lifestyle, and range from $500-$7000.
Assouline Venezia, Bauer Hotel, San Marco, Venice, Italy; +39 041 240 6876;
Who? Acqua Alta
What? This truly is a unique store, with boats, gondolas and canoes forming the shelves for the new and used books. The mix of second-hand and brand new books climb every surface of the wall, and even become part of the furniture, including a staircase of ancient encyclopedias that allows you to look over the canal. When the shop is eventually flooded, the books will all be saved as they float away in their boats.
Sestiere Castello, 5176/B, 30122 Venezia, Italy
Who? Livraria Lello
What? This beautiful bookstore dates all the way back to 1906, with the incredible neo-Gothic structure with sweeping staircase, plaster ceiling and stained glass windows designed by engineer Xavier Esteves. Known was the world’s most beautiful bookstore, it has become so popular with tourists that in July of this year the store has started charging entrance fees.
Livraria Lello & Irmao | Rua das Carmelitas 144 Vitória, Porto 4050-161 Portugal
Who? Bookabar Bookshop
What? This large bookshop was designed by architect Firouz Galdo, and spans over three large rooms and 450 square metres. Of the three rooms, two are for books, the other is for merchandise. The books are mainly concerned with architecture and design, and this is reflected in the beauty of this large and minimalistic space.
Bookabar Bookshop | Via Milano 15/17, Rome, Italy
Where? Maastricht, Netherlands
Who? Boekhandel Dominicanen
What? This is a bookstore with a difference. The store was built in the 13th century, and is a 1,100 square meter former Dominican Church. Before being converted into a bookstore in 2006, the space had been used for varying purposes- carnivals, Orchestra and even sheep slaughtering. Now, the bookstore holds over 40,000 books, sells delicious coffee and hosts over 140 events each year.
Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen | 1 Dominikanerkerk Street, 6211 Maastricht The Netherlands
What? Foyles is a century old London bookseller, and in 2014 moved to a new building that is the size of 13 tennis courts. The bookstore is the former Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and has held students such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. The building holds even more history, as the Foyle’s children’s department was once the stage where the Sex Pistols played their very first gig in 1975. The store is modern in design, using in-store digital book search maps- the first in the country.
Foyles Bookshop | 113 – 119 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0EB England
What? Located in the cultural Covent Garden area of London is one of the world’s best travel book shops. Stanfords has guide books and street maps for every place in the world- if you are going there, Stanfords stocks the materials you need. The shop also stocks obscure travel writing texts.
Stanfords | 12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP England
Who? Mr B’s Emporium of Readin
What? This indie bookstore is not just a bookstore- it is a place to relax and unwind. Decorated with cozy armchair and comfortable surroundings, the store also offers services such as bibliotherapy and reading spas. Engage in one of these spas and the staff will sit you with one-on-one while you discuss your favorite books with them over coffee, then they will bring you a selection of books to dive into.
14-15 John St, Bath, Avon BA1 2JL, United Kingdom
Where? London Canals
Who? Word on the Water
What? A traveling bookstore! Word on the Water is a floating bookstore owned by Paddy Screech, and it travels around London’s canals. The interior contains a large collection of books, cats and music, and if you see if floating by it is sure to have something to brighten up your day.
United States of America
Where? Los Angeles
Who? The Last Bookstore
What? A huge, ware-house like store filled with new and old books, graphic novels and record stores home to over 200,000 books. The store is extremely popular, and has even been used as a backdrop for a fashion shoot for ‘Esquire’. The space of originally a bank, and the vaults are still on both the floors- but now containing books!
453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, United States
Where? San Francisco
Who? Borderlands Books
What? Borderlands is a niche bookstore, and it is heaven for anyone who loves Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Horror. Stocking only these books, the collection of these genres is incredible, and you can sit around in one of the comfy chairs and read from each book until you have decided what you want to take home with you.
866 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
Who? John K. King Used & Rare Books
What? Another bookstore with an interesting venue- and old glove factory- this store has more than 900 categories and more than one million books! The store opened in 1975, and has an impressive collection, with the First Edition of the Book of Mormon- priced at $100,000, and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, dating back to 1482! The store is so big, that the website quotes ‘We buy books and libraries!’.
John K. King Books | 901 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
Where? New York
What? ‘Book Row’ was the name given to six blocks of Manhattan’s Fourth Avenue back in the 1920s, as it was home to 48 bookstores. Strand is the only of these stores left. It has now moved to Broadway and 12th street, and has an amazing 2.5 million books- new, used and rare. The rare room is simply amazing, and for $45,000 you could get their copy of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ illustrated by Henri Matisse.
The Strand Bookstore | 828 Broadway, New York City, NY
Who? Powell’s City of Books
What? An iconic Portland landmark, you need a few days to explore. The multi-story house is usually crowded inside, as people scower the shelves for new and used editions. Authors stop by here for signing and readings, and if in the USA they will always stop here whilst on tour.
Powell’s City of Books | 1005 W Burnside, Portland, OR
Who? Wild Rumpus
What? This store is not famous for the books, but for what else resides within. Wild Rumpus is filled with books and animals! Two little rats named Tilly and Pip live under the floorboards in a glass cage so that you can watch them running around, and you can also come and visit the ferrets Doodle and Ferdinand, the three cats, two doves, three cockatiels, chinchillas Amelia and Mr Skeeter, two chickens, Spike the lizard and Thomas Jefferson the tarantula!
2720 W 43rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55410, United States
South and Central America
Where? Buenos Aires
Who? El Ateneo
What? A former cinema, the majestic building has kept is ornate architecture as a bookstore. The new store opened in the early 2000s, yet is so in touch with the building’s history that the stage and theater boxes have been kept and converted into reading spaces.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid | Av Santa Fe 1860 Barrio Recoleta, Buenos Aires Argentina
Where? Mexico City
Who? Cafebreria El Pendulo
What? A bookstore and a café, you can have your breakfast on the weekend whilst enjoying live classical music. The store is twenty-two years old, and you will feel relaxed and nourished as you eat some of the best food, reading a great book and listening to beautiful music.
El Pendulo | Alejandro Dumas 81, Polanco, Mexico City 11560 Mexico
Where? Guangzhou, China
Who? 1200 Bookshop
What? This bookstore was inspired by the first one on our list- Shakespeare and company. The store holds midnight seminars in store, sells books, coffee, and let’s backpackers stay for free in a private room on the premises. The store is open 24 hour.
1200 Bookshop, 27 East Tiyu ST, Tianhe District, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China; +86 20 8526 0827
Where? Melbourne, Australia
Who? Books for Cooks
What? As the name tells us- this store sells books for cooks! The 150-year old building is a former speakeasy, in the coolest areas of Melbourne, and is the only shop in Australia that specializes in cookbooks. Home to over 40,000 books, including 18th-century culinary text books, chefs, foodies and gourmet enthusiasts flock here for their literary needs.
Books for Cooks | 129-131 Therry St Queen Victoria Market, Fitzroy, Yarra, Victoria 3000 Australia
Who? Eslite Dunnan Store
What? Another 24 bookstore, this shop in Taipei opened in 1999. The store is 17,000 square meters, and is so successful that two more branches have opened in the city.
Eslite BookstoreTunnan | 2F, No.245 Tunhua South Road, Section 1, Taipei Taiwan
Where? Nanjing, China
Who? Librairie Avant-Garde
What? This 4000 square meter store is a beautiful bookstore inside an underground parking lot once used as a bomb shelter. The store has over 300 reading chairs, and unusual features- such as a checkout counter made from thousands of old books, large crosses, and a copy of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’.
Librairie Avant-Garde | No.173 Guangzhou Road, Nanjing China