There are so many wonderful and unique bookstores all over the world and I want to showcase the most amazing. It was hard to keep this to a reasonable list, so this is Part 1 of 2. Also, I focused on uniqueness, intrigue, and wow factors.
Here are my picks for the Top Bookstores in the World:
Powell’s City of Books
Powell’s is legendary;
The City of Books (headquarters) takes up an entire city block;
it has 68,000 square feet, nine (color-coded) rooms, three floors, and 3,500 sections. This Flagship location is the world’s largest used book store (carrying new and used, over 1 million books) and said to be the largest independent chain of bookstores on the planet.
They even provide a map for navigating the “city.” It is an amazing store, and one of my favorite places. I am a Portland local and adore this store, but although I am naturally biased, Powell’s reputation is renowned beyond local fans. National Geographic listed it in the top ten bookstores, and CNN listed it among the coolest bookstores in world. The inventory for its retail and online sales is over four million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. Powell’s buys around 3,000 used books a day. Powell’s also holds many fun book related events; book tournaments, readings, story times for kids, and book groups.
If you ever find yourself in or around the Portland area, I urge you to experience Powell’s City of Books. It is located downtown at the corner of 10th and west Burnside, and opened 365 days a year. Just be sure to give yourself a couple of days to fully take it all in.
Books for Cooks (Melbourne, Australia)
Australia’s only retail store specializing exclusively in new and old books about wine, food and the culinary arts.
Books for Cooks opened in Wattletree Rd, Melbourne in 1983. They carry over 40,000 titles in stock; from the 1780’s to the latest releases.
This bookshop is located on the ground floor of a beautiful double fronted early Victorian two-story terrace in Fitzroy. The building dates back to the 1850’s and was allegedly used as a sly grog shop almost 100 years ago. If you look closely you can even see handmade bricks in the wall.
Shakespeare and Company (Paris, France)
Tourists, customers, dirty poems, a crowd of 40 or 50 mostly attentive listeners, Shakespeare and Company is notably one of the most famous bookshops in the world. It is the name of two independent bookstores that have existed on Paris’s Left Bank.
Bookstands surround an ornate drinking fountain, erected in the 19th century to service the area’s poor. Inside, there’s an extensive stock of second-hand books. Many famous writers have left their mark at Shakespeare’s; an estimated 30,000 aspiring writers bunked over the decades, sleeping on bug infested cots and benches scattered throughout the store in exchange for a couple of hours of work a day and a promise to spend at least some of their downtime reading and writing; a one-page autobiography is mandatory.
Atlantis Books (Santorini, Greece)
Atlantis’s bookshelves, which the staff built themselves, are filled with novels, poetry, short-story collections, biographies and philosophy tomes. The staff is happy to advise on their favorites. In the spring of 2002, Oliver and Craig spent a week on the island of Santorini. The land inspired them and there was no bookshop, so they drank some wine and decided to open one. Oliver named it Atlantis Books and the two laughed about how their children would run it someday. For a more detailed story on this beautiful shop: NY Times…
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (Bath, UK)
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights is an independent bookshop in Bath. It was founded by former lawyer and derivatives trader Nic Bottomley. A charming bookshop full of friendly book-lovers and packed with quirky furniture. The shop also contains a reading booth for rent and free hot drinks. Mr. B’s specializes in great books, super fast customer orders, themed literary events, reading spas and reading year gifts.
A beautiful neo-classical building designed for the Royal Bank of Canada, in 1909 by Thomas Hooper, the architect of many of B.C.’s finest commercial and public buildings. Munro’s Books has been described by journalist Allan Fotheringham as “the most magnificent bookstore in Canada, possibly in North America.”
The store’s stock consisted almost entirely of paperbacks, at a time when many traditional booksellers considered anything other than hardback books to be beyond the pale, bordering on beneath contempt.
Located in a former underground parking garage and bomb shelter, Librairie Avant-Garde has been transformed into the most beautiful bookstore in China.
This bookshop features a cafe, pillars etched with famous verses and poems, sculptures, artwork, and one of the coolest features is a cashier counter built from thousands of old books. It is also adorned with tons of reading chairs, so you can get cozy, settle in, and forget the outside world.
This list was has been so fun to make, there are so many immensely interesting and amazing bookstores. I cannot wait to share with you the last 8 of The Top Bookstores in the World.
Which of these is your favorite? Stay tuned for Part II coming soon!
“What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare.” W.H.Davies
Here is the second part to an already awesome list of Book Towns. I hope you enjoy these ones as much as
Book Towns: Part I
Here are 6 more stunning little Book Towns:
St. Martins, New Brunswick
A beautiful Canadian village 40 km east of Saint John, it is situated on the Bay of Fundy. The village was founded by a Loyalists in 1783, and was originally known as Quaco. St. Martins has a population of approx. 304 (2006.) In 2007, the St. Martins Book town Initiative was formed.
Soon after that the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly officially proclaimed St. Martins as New Brunswick’s official Book town. There are now nearly a dozen booksellers located in the village.
Wigtown was officially designated as Scotland’s National Book Town in 1998 and is now home to over 20 book-related businesses.
A book lovers haven; it has over a
quarter of a million books to choose from, old and new. It would be impossible to escape this town empty handed. Every year Wigtown book Festival offers more than 180 events for adults, children and young people; including literature, music, film, theatre, arts and crafts. The festival takes place for 10 days each autumn.
Fjærland has 300 inhabitants, and is part of Sogndal municipality. The centre in Fjærland is Mundal, about 3 km from the main road, down the fjord. Most people in Fjærland are engaged in farming and tourism.
A simple and beautiful book town; with book shops situated in old cow sheds and pigpens, there are also book shops on the ferry quay, and
in the Hotel Mundal. An absolutely picturesque little village!
Clunes, Victoria (Australia)
The charming Goldfields village of Clunes is famous for its bookshops, set amidst a heritage rich landscape. From the collectibles to the bargains, from small shops to large shops stocking thousands of titles. Clunes is located 36 km north of Ballarat.
It is a member of the International Organisations of Book Towns.
This year Clunes celebrates it’s 10 year book town anniversary.
The idea of transforming Clunes into a European-style book town was first conceived and developed by Councillor Tim Hayes, Linda Newitt, Graeme Johnston, and Tess Brady. Clunes held its first ‘Booktown for a Day’ event on 20 May 2007.
Over 50 booksellers from around Australia set up shop for the day in the town’s heritage buildings.
Clunes has a population of 1656 (2011) and more than 60 booksellers. With millions of books and 15,000 visitors, it has impressively become the largest collection of books in any regional centre of Australia.
Sedbergh, Cumbria (England)
A lovely town laced with old world atmosphere. There are only about eight bookshops in Sedbergh, but one of these books shops is enormous. Westwood Books, is a family business that moved to Sedbergh from Hay‑on‑Wye in 2005. As a former cinema it holds about 70,000 titles.
The other smaller shops sell books in the town itself and at Farfield Mill Heritage Centre, a mile and a half away. Among these are some small‑scale specialists: Avril’s Books at Farfield Mill (craft, textiles and applied arts), Sleepy Elephant (vintage children’s books, local interest and guides), Sedbergh Information and Book Centre (18 different dealers represented, with specialisms including fine art, transport and sport).
A small medieval town in the Netherlands with a population of approx. 1600. The town was designated a book town in 1993 because of its more than 20 secondhand and antiquarian bookshops.
Every third Saturday of the month, the town square hosts a book market, attracting book dealers from all over the country to sell English, German, and Dutch books. Bredevoort is one of the founding members of the International Organisation of Book Towns, and hosts many literary events to support the local book economy.
These are just some of the most popular and well known book towns, but there are many more. My heart is so warmed by these little treasures. I hope you enjoyed learning about them as much as I did.
Which one/s are your favorite?