Powell’s, Shakespeare & Co. and Strand bookstore – all places any literary lover should put on their travel list.
While many claim that print is dead, there’s still nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. But it’s not just the book that’s special; it’s the process of buying it. Bookstores are treasure troves, and in a day and age where large online retailers and box stores are pushing out the smaller guys, making sure they get your business is even more important.
Are you a lover of books? Then why not devote your next trip to checking out the independent bookstore scene wherever you are? You never know what you’re going to find. For inspiration, we’ve rounded up a list of bookstores that are worth a visit.
1. Strand – New York City, New York
Around since the 1920s, Strand is an iconic part of not only New York City’s bookstore culture, but simply general culture overall. Visiting NYC without visiting Strand bookstore is simply a missed opportunity. In all, the store boasts 18 miles of used and rare books, which is enough to make you get lost in book aisles for days and days.
2. Powell’s – Portland, Oregon
If Strand is the iconic bookstore in the east, then Powell’s is its counterpart in the west. Opening in the 1970s, today it has five different locations within the Portland area, the downtown main one called “City of Books.” And when you enter, it does in fact feel like a city, the aisles are like little streets that wind you through the many rooms. The best part about Powell’s? You can grab a stack of books, take them to the in-store cafe and peruse them while drinking a coffee.
3. Parnassus Books – Nashville, Tennessee
Leave it to an author to ensure that the local book scene stays alive. When Nashville lost its only bookstore, Ann Patchett stepped in, a firm believer that people should be able to buy their books at a brick and mortar, and helped open Parnassus. This neighborhood bookstore revival is born out of Patchett’s desire for a store “that valued books and readers above muffins and adorable plastic watering cans.” Yes, please.
4. BookPeople – Austin, Texas
BookPeople happens to be Texas’ largest independent bookstore, and it’s so popular that it was voted Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly in 2005. But beyond all the literary works housed in this space, there’s another reason to visit: all the books on Texan and Southern cooking, so you can be sure to beef up on your bbq knowledge.
5. The Elliott Bay Book Company – Seattle, Washington
Seattle is known for a lot of rain, and what do you want to do when it’s gray and rainy? Curl up with a good book. Which might be why Seattleites have such a wonderful bookstore at their disposal. The Elliott Bay Book Company is home to more than 150,000 titles. And because it’s Seattle, Elliott Bay’s other claim to fame is that the Elliott Bay Cafe was Seattle’s first bookstore cafe.
6. Shakespeare and Company – Paris, France
The literary crowd will always have a love affair with Paris, and for those there is no place higher on the destination list than Shakespeare and Company. Paris has always attracted writers, and the bookstore is known for supporting the works of both well-known authors and the yet undiscovered ones. Located on the Left Bank it has managed to maintain its quaint, cozy ambiance.
7. Politics and Prose – Washington, D.C.
The name of Politics and Prose is fitting in the U.S. capital. Here you find a community gathering space, with plenty of author events, and lots of unusual books. The bookstore has even started hosting trips, taking book lovers around the world.
8. Bertrand Bookstore, Lisbon, Portugal
While today Bertrand runs over 40 bookstores around Portugal, it’s worth a mention on a list of bookstores has it has one thing going for it that no other place has: it’s the oldest bookstore in the world. In fact, if you’re feeling down about the state of books, there’s nothing to bring your spirits up like a place that has been selling written works since 1732.
9. McNally Jackson – New York City, New York
The Strand bookstore isn’t the only thing NYC has to offer. The literature in the store is arranged by nation, and hoping to bring more great works to the rest of the world, they even offer self-publishing services.
10. The Last Bookstore – Los Angeles, California
While younger than many bookstores, The Last Bookstore is California’s largest independent one and perhaps the most unique. It began in 2005 in a small loft space and now takes up about 20,000 square feet. There are books everywhere, often part of the interior design of the space, making it just as much a museum of books as a bookstore.
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Images: Alexendre Duret-Lutz, Patrick Haney, Nicola, Scott Garner