Monday, January 14, 2008

Thanks to Amber for bringing this story to my notice:


Every booklover has their favourite shop, and while it's true that many independents have been driven out of business by online sales and supermarket bestsellers, you still don't have to look too hard to find one that's thriving.

To prove it, Sean Dodson chooses the 10 bookshops from around the world which he considers to be the fairest of them all. Here is his story from the Friday January 11, 2008 edition of The Guardian.

Shopping around the globe ... left -Livrario Lello in Porto,

1) Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht
What does a city do with an 800-year-old church with no congregation? Well, it could make like the Dutch and convert it into a temple of books. The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time. The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, which opened just before Christmas, retains the character and charm of the old church, while being fitted with a minimalist and modern interior design that overcomes any suggestion of fustiness. From the images you can find on the web you can see that it is a bookshop made in heaven.

2) El Ateneo in Buenos Aires
ll the world's a page at El Ateneo, a bookshop converted from an old theatre in downtown Buenos Aires.
As you can see from this photomontage the El Ateneo has retained its former
splendour, with high painted ceiling, original balconies and ornate
carvings intact. Even the crimson stage curtains remain part of the show.
Comfy chairs are scattered throughout, the stage is utilised as a reading area
and café, and even better, the former theatre boxes are used as tiny reading

3) Livraria Lello in Porto
Proving that purpose-built bookshops can be every bit as beautiful as converted buildings, the divine Livraria Lello in Porto has been selling books in the most salubrious of settings since 1881.
Featuring a staircase to heaven and beautifully intricate wooden panels and columns (see for
yourself with these gorgeous 360-degree views), stained glass ceilings and books - lots of
lovely books.
(Bookman Beattie vsisted this famous shop last year. See my blog report from that time.)

4) Secret Headquarters Comic bookstore in Los Angeles
A mere profiterole to the fabulous layer cakes of Porto and Buenos Aires, but the Secret
Headquarters more than holds its own. Nestled in the creative cluster of
Silver Lake, just east of Hollywood, this boutique store offers a
sophisticated alternative to most of its rivals and has a reputation for being
one of the neatest, friendliest comic stores anywhere. US science fiction
author Cory Doctorow rates it as the finest in the world.

5) Borders in Glasgow
The might of the Michigan-based megastore may make a lot of independent booksellers fearful,
but few book lovers can fail to be beguiled by the neo-classical architecture
of its behemoth Glasgow branch. Originally designed by Archibald Elliot in
1827 for the Royal Bank, Borders has occupied a prime spot on Royal Exchange Square since the millennium and won over many of the city's book lovers. People reading on the steps
outside have become as much a feature of Glasgow as the traffic cone
on the head of Wellington's statue. Well, almost. Would have been higher
on my list if the aesthetic magnificence of the building had in any way been
matched by the interior.

6) Scarthin's in the Peak District Of course, others might prefer the altogether more earthy beauty of a shop like Scarthin Books in the Peak District. Scarthin's has been selling new and second-hand books since the
mid-1970s. It has rooms full of new and old books, a delightful café and what
can best be described as a small exhibition of
curiosities on the first floor. It is a bookshop so beloved, that it
advertises local guest and farmhouses on its websites where devotees can stay

6) Posada in Brussels
Located in a dear old house near St Magdalen's church in Brussels, Posada
is as famous for its pretty interior as it is for its collection of
new and second-hand art books. Has a remarkable collection of exhibition
catalogues, which goes back to the beginning of the last century, and holds occasional exhibitions too.

8) El lugar de la Mancha in Mexico The Polanco branch of Pendulo in Mexico City has long been known
as one of the best ways to beat the heat in the largest city in the world.
Although it only has a small English language section, its open architecture populated with
several trees makes for an excellent afternoon's escape. In honesty, as
popular for its excellent cafe as it is its books.

9) Keibunsya in Kyoto
If you love bookshops even where you can't read the language, then Keibunsya in
Kyoto needs to be on your list too. Some say it's the lighting, others the
well-proportioned panels around the walls. Or perhaps it's the little
galleries embedded in the bookshelves. Most agree it's just the quiet
dignity of the place that's hard to beat. Lots of pretty Japanese art books to
marvel at and a few English language ones as well.

10) Hatchards in London
Although the bookshop of Cambridge University is technically the oldest bookshop in Britain, Hatchards of Piccadilly, which has been
trading since 1797, is definitely the most aristocratic. Not only does it
boast three royal warrants, meaning it supplies books to Her Majesty, it has
counted Disraeli, Wilde and Byron among its regulars. Today it retains the
spirit of days past, with an interior described by one
follower as "reminiscent of being inside a rambling old house, with
six floors of small rooms all linked together curling around a central

Bookman Beattie has visited four of these stores, numbers 3, 5, 6 & 10 above but the idea of seeing the rest has huge appeal!

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