19 April 2012

Re-Kindle your love of Books

The past decade has been a pretty gloomy time for the book industry, with e-book sales nibbling away at its livelihood, page by page. For all their handy-ness it could be argued that e-books render the magic of reading obsolete. You can’t curl up with an e-book, you can’t sniff its pages. An e-book doesn’t hold the fingerprints and subsequently a little part of each person that’s ever read it. Books are meant to be worn, tattered, read and read again, then when sufficiently dog-eared and crinkly-edged take their place on a higgledy-piggledy bookshelf somewhere to winsomely gather dust.

As the book industry struggles on and more and more independent bookshops close year by year, this only serves to make those which remain all the more special. There are some truly magical bookshops sprinkled throughout the globe, if you just know where to look. In the great words of Ray Bradbury, ‘You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear them like hats upon your crazy heads.’ Go forth bookworms.


Shakespeare & Co. is a true literary gem, serving as both a regular bookstore and as a reading library the higgledy-piggledy bookshop specializes in English-language literature. Acting as a hub for literary culture in Paris, the bookshop has been frequented by many Beat Generation writers, such as Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Shakespeare & Co. takes the idea of curling up with a good book very literally, with its 13 inshop beds. Owner George Whitman claims as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years.


A marvellous idea; a floating bookshop on a canal boat that meanders along the UK waterways at a blissfully slow pace. The book barge promotes a less hurried pace of life, complete with cups of tea, good conversation, culture and of course, a stunning collection of books to satisfy even the most insatiable literary appetite. One’s thing’s for sure, this is a bookshop that’s going places.


John Kings Used and Rare Bookstore is five stories of wistful wooden bookshelves, crammed with old books marked by cardboard signs and hand-drawn maps. A former 1940’s glove factory, much of the original factory signs are still in place adding a certain romantic antiquity to this already magical bookstore. The derelict and somewhat decrepit exterior only goes to show that you really can’t tell a book by its cover.


This bookstore is quite literally, literary heaven. The soaring Gothic structure of this old Dominican Church turned three-storey bookshop is the holy grail for book-lovers. The Gothic naves where parishioners once prayed are now lined with Bookshelves. From the uppermost levels, book browsers can gaze at the stunning architecture of the ceiling frescoes, ornate columns, and row upon row of books. Reading here feels like a sacred activity. Pull up a pew and get lost in a good book. Amen to that.


This aesthetically beautiful bookshop literally has books in every nook-and-cranny, even the front doors are functioning bookshelves and the walls are lined from floor to ceiling. Combining contemporary architecture and literature, this impeccably designed bookshop is a visual feast and a bookworms dream. With books lining every wall of its three stories, it is a wonder how the shop keeps its clean and sleek appearance.


Possibly one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, the century-old, art nouveau Lello Bookshop in Porto, is simply stunning. From its neogothic facade to its carved wood interior and stained glass ceiling the Lello Bookshop has to be seen to be believed. The magnificent blood red spiral staircase is the centrepiece of the shop, climbing the steps to the second floor is literally like climbing the staircase to literary heaven. It’s a lucky book that gets to live on these shelves.

By Lilee Cathcart




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