Inspired by the marvellous “Bookshop Book” by Jen Campbell, I am going to talk about bookshops I would love to visit in Europe, Africa, North America, Central and South America, Australasia and Asia. Each week I will talk about a different continent and the bookshops that are waiting to be discovered there over the course of 6 weeks. This week is Europe…
Based in Central London, Goldsboro books is a shop that is dedicated to First edition and signed books. It is well known for the author buying 250 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith a.k.a J.K Rowling and selling them for just £16.99 when they were selling for over £1000 on ebay.
Something about signed editions makes a book feel that extra bit special, not just for the monetary value but for the memories that reside with it. For example: I have a signed copy of My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson from when I met her at the first ever book signing I had ever attended and it is a book that I could never bear to give away or part from. For this reason, I would love to see what treasures this bookshop that is hidden away in a backstreet of London is keeping. They also have a website but I feel the experience of actually visiting the bookshop is incomparable, they also have book events such as signings and genre evenings which I imagine are as brilliant as the ethos behind the store itself.
Located in Bath and opening in 2006 when the owners who had once been lawyers decided that a career in independent bookselling was the way forward, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights appears to be every book-lovers dream. Recognising that the key to success of bookshops is not just about the warm and friendly service and simply selling books, the owners Nic and Juliette use different initiatives to bring their store alive such as blogs, a Bibliotherapy room and offering book subscriptions.
If the cosy atmosphere of leather chairs and cream carpets wasn’t inviting enough, the little quirks that lay in the furniture of the store and the imaginative website display bring this independent book alive when it was thought the business was dying. Any book-lover of any genre and background is sure to fit in to this sublime creation that has the perfect fusion of new and old. I simply need to visit this bookshop.
As you can see from the picture above, Hay on Wye is not so much a bookshop but a booktown which is renowned for its books and bookshops: from a cinema bookshop to one that specialises in rare and out-of-print Children’s and Illustrated books, the variety is unimaginable. There are around 30 bookshops in this town that lies on the boarder between England and Wales and it is said to be the world’s first booktown which draws in guests such as Bill Clinton.
It has to be one for the bucket list and is home to one of the world’s top literary festivals, the Hay Festival. From the 26th May- 4th June, it annually holds the book festival which welcomes writers, poets and all kinds of thinkers, and it is free entry unless you want to purchase tickets for special events that are still only a small fee. I’m certainly sold!
Opening in 1951 by an American, George Whitman, this French bookshop in the heart of Paris which sells books in the English-Language, is located on the banks of the Seine (there was a lot of nationalities in that sentence). Originally called Le Mistral, Whitman changed the name of the store in 1964 in honour of a bookseller he admired called Sylvia Beach, who had founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919.
George’s philosophy, “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise” meant that from the first day the store opened, writers, artists and creative individuals were invited to reside on small beds that doubled as benches during the day. Once George reached a certain age, his daughter Sylvia Whitman took over the shop and had introduced several literary endeavours which keep the shop current as well as packed with history.
I thoroughly recommend reading the history of this landmark of a shop as it is genuinely inspiring and engaging and adds to the reasons as to why this store is one to be experienced first hand. Oh, and did I mention, they have a café…
Unlike the others in this list so far, Cook and Book is certainly a bookshop that is perhaps beyond even our time. The neat layout of 8 sections, each with its own matching lunch/dinner space, provides more than just a literary experience but a matching culinary one too. From a comic book section to a one devoted to travel, the variety is in abundance. It is the Ikea of the book world.
Personally I prefer a less minimalist setting and one that is crammed with books in every inch of the vicinity but there is a bookshop for everyone and this could be yours!
To conclude this whistle stop tour of merely a fraction of the bookish adventures that live in Europe, the Alexandra Bookstore (and café) could certainly be a country in itself. The nearly 1700m² inch bookstore is a glamorous affair and is a far cry from some of the smaller, cosier bookshops on this list. The history of this jewel of a book department store oozes of the elegance and sophistication it still upholds and the café holds live music to book signings and is somewhere I would love to immerse myself in.
This list barely scrapes the surface of the gems of Europe and I sincerely apologise to any book lovers and shop appreciaters that are much more clued up on this business than myself. But I have had fun mentally planning my adventures to these marvels and I promise myself that I will visit at least all of them.
What are some hidden gems you have discovered and what makes a bookshop extraordinary?
Emily Simms: 21:15