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10 Of The Best Bookstores On The Planet

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

I can't help it. I see one, I have to go in. I know I have "enough" of what they sell already (whatever that means). There's no big "reason" I need to sideline whatever I'm doing at that moment to accept this new mission. It just happens. It's autonomic, semi-robotic, one could argue catatonic. It's habitual, sacred ritual, truth be told, quasi-victual.

I'm talking about bookstores. And I'm guessing you can relate or you wouldn't be here!

So what do you love best about a good book shop? It's hard to pin down sometimes, but it's alway a delight trying.

Is it the selection? The staff? The ambience, the lighting, the layout? The reverential silence that comes with being in the presence of so many authors' collective brilliance, imagination, and hard work? Or maybe something more primal, more narcotic, like the non-digital feel of those pages or the smell of all that paper, ink, and glue.

Whatever is it, if you're looking for something new on your travels and want to support local booksellers, here are ten beloved gems to add to your list. (Yes, my choices are a little biased - guilty as charged.)

10: SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY (Paris, France). It’s the only fully English-language bookstore in the city and was where Lost Generation authors like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, and Joyce hung out and waxed creative. The latter’s book Ulysses was published there and during World War II, owner Sylvia Beach refused to sell books to Nazi soldiers. Check it out next time you’re in the City of Love!

9. RUSSELL BOOKS (Victoria, Canada) Family-owned for three generations, this multi-floor, multi-building wonderland has no apparent end of books old and new, full-priced and bargain, including an antique section second to none.

Don’t miss it when you’re next visiting British Columbia’s capital city!

8. BART’S BOOKS (Onai, California) In the style of “les bouqinistes” bookstores along Paris’ Seine River, most of the new and used books are kept outdoors for customers to buy 24/7 on the honour system.

According to manager

Matt Henricksen, statistical trends suggest that “more bookstores are opening than closing in the last five years." While COVID has definitely put a damper on things globally, staying at home with a good book is on the rise. Fingers crossed!

7. CARTURESTI CARUSEL (Bucharest, Romania) Part of the Carturesti chain of bookstores, Carusel was built in the 19th century with 6 levels and 1000 square meters of books. (Sigh!) In 2015, a five-year rehabilitation process began, restoring and strengthening the building in key areas. Dubbed "the prettiest bookstore in Romania, you can browse for hours in both Romanian and English. P.S. don’t miss that great gift shop in the basement!

6: HONESTY BOOKSHOP (Hay-on-Wye, Wales) In a town with only 1000 residents but 30+ bookstores, this one literally puts itself out there with its books on constant public display and a name that doubles as its policy. Part of Richard Booth's Bookshop, it was Booth's idea to create a biblio-mecca when he opened his first store in 1961.