As C.S. Lewis once said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Books shall always be my first love. As a matter of fact, I have a Booket List–a list of books I desire to read before I die. Something that thrills me nearly as much as reading books is wandering through bookshops. Whenever I walk into one of those glorious labyrinths glittering with endless stories, I have the hardest time convincing myself to leave.
As evidence of my love affair with books, here is the transcript of a text conversation Will and I had a year ago:
Janelle: “I’m currently at a bookshop by myself. This is very dangerous. It means there’s no one to prevent me from staying here all day! Muahahahahahahaha. I just have to keep chanting, ‘I will not buy all the books, I will not buy all the books’ to myself.”
–Two hours later–
Janelle: “Update: In a miraculous feat of self-control, I purchased the gift I came for, then dragged my bibliophile self out of the bookshop.”
Will: “I love you so much.”
He thankfully fancies books just as much as I do 🙂
One of my life goals is to visit as many exquisite bookshops as possible ranging from near to far, small to large, new to old. If you would like to book a trip around the world of bookshops with me, read on.
Favourite Bookshops Around the World:
- El Ateneo Gran Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Ateneo Gran Splendid was originally built as a theatre called Teatro Grand Splendid in 1919. The theatre had a seating capacity of 1,050 and staged a variety of performances, including appearances by the legendary tango artist Carlos Gardel. In 2000, it was converted into a bookshop through which a million people wander each year.
What I appreciate most about El Ateneo Grand Splendid is its desire to honour its history. For instance, when the owners converted the theatre into a bookshop, they keep the theatre boxes intact as well as the ceiling, ornate carvings, and crimson stage curtains. Despite the changes, the building still retains the grandeur of its theatre past.
2. Shakespeare and Co., Paris, France
Named after a bookstore frequented by Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce during the 1920s, Shakespeare and Co. has become equally legendary. Opened in 1951 by the American George Whitman – and run by his daughter Sylvia since his death in 2011 – it became a gathering place for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. From the start, Whitman allowed travelling artists and writers to lodge at the shop, which is also a lending library. The words of past authors and zeal of past journeyers haunt Shakespeare and Co.’s walls.
3. Hatchard’s, London, England
The oldest bookshop in the United Kingdom, Hatchard’s was founded in 1797 by John Hatchard. It was founded with a collection of merchandise bought from Simon Vandenbergh, a bookseller of the 18th century. It has a reputation for attracting high-profile authors and holds three Royal Warrants.
I delight in Hatchard’s elegance and evident joy in books.
Hatchard’s places a signpost in each section to introduce the category of the kind of books one might find there.
4. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, California
The Last Bookstore is California’s largest used and new bookshop, having opened in 2005 in a downtown loft. It has grown since then to 22,000 square feet, a softly lit labyrinthine collection of books and records, with space for literary, musical and theatrical events. The Last Bookstore encourages selling and trading of books as part of a mission to “keep the paper and ink book business alive.”
The bookstore’s downstairs is sufficiently stunning, but the best treasures are kept upstairs. Bibliophiles on the mezzanine level are greeted by hanging books, suspended in flight as they erupt from a bookcase. Further on, there are tunnels built from books, hidden side rooms with more than 100,000 used books for sale, and freestanding sculptures.
5. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
Translating as “high water bookshop,” Libreria Acqua Alta opened around the dawn of the millennium and has had to deal with flooding from the nearby Venetian canals ever since. The owner frequently moves his books from the floor to bathtubs and gondolas to protect them. During floods, people wade along the streets and buildings are boarded up, but the bookshop continues to thrive.
I left this one for last because I have not visited it yet and always like to have something to aspire to 🙂
After finishing a particularly good book when I was 12, I remarked: “It’s infuriating when books have the audacity to end!” Not much has changed a decade later. Books must end, as the sun must set. The glory of bookshops rests in the fact that they never fail to provide more books, more adventures, more insights, more joy.