In an era when technology dominates every moment of every day, perhaps we should take a moment to remember and celebrate a time when books were the prime source of information.
The rise of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and Kindle store became a pivotal moment in the history of books. Millions upon millions of e-books have been and continue to be purchased. While the e-book revolution irrevocably has changed the way we read, few things soothe the mind and the soul like a trip to a fantastic bookstore.
Amazon’s negative effect on big bookstore chains is well established, but what is less often reported is that the mega retailer has been instrumental in reviving independent bookstores.
Hidden among the galaxy of booksellers are some unique and vibrant establishments that run the gamut from massive to luxurious. Here we’ll take a look at several that will thrill and amaze those who still believe that nothing beats a good book.
Bauman Rare Books, Las Vegas
Bauman Rare Books began life in Philadelphia in 1982, after serving the rare book auction world for many years.When entering the bookstore, you may feel the need to don some horn-rimmed eyeglasses or a tweed jacket with elbow patches.
While many independent bookstores sell a wide variety of tomes, Bauman specializes in those that are hard to find and first editions, many of which are inscribed by the authors themselves.
Bauman has three locations — Philadelphia, New York City and Las Vegas — and all are staffed by highly knowledgeable experts.
As a matter of fact, one of these experts, a manager who previously worked at the Las Vegas site located inside the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian | The Palazzo, appeared on History’s popular reality television show “Pawn Stars” as a rare book expert. Bauman, however, notes that it does not handle book appraisals.
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
The legendary travel book publisher Lonely Planet has dubbed this book lovers’ gem as the third-best bookstore in the world. A child of Portugal’s early 20th-century Art Nouveau movement, Livraria Lello isn’t just one of the world’s most stunning bookstores; it’s one of the world’s most stunning retail spaces of any kind.
The ebb and flow of the store’s design is almost organic. The central staircase is rumored to have been a huge influence on J.K. Rowling as she conceived Harry Potter’s world, and one easily can feel the influence in the creation of both Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the many shops at Diagon Alley. If you ever find yourself in Porto, do yourself a favor and stop by Livraria Lello.
Daunt Books, Marylebone, London
Billing itself as the world’s first custom-built bookstore, Daunt Books of Marylebone is housed in a space that once was a bookstore during the Edwardian era.
The history of the store can be felt as you walk alongside the lengthy oak bookshelves, which are illuminated by dozens of skylights and a massive window overlooking Marylebone High Street, one of London’s most beloved byways.
The store specializes in travel books, and offers frequent readings and special events featuring writers of all stripes. Near the entrance to the travel gallery is an old vault that once held rare and expensive volumes.
While it has veered away from the specialty market in recent years, the bookstore does feature a high-end subscription service. The Cookery subscription is particularly beloved.
Daunt Books is a place that harkens back to the great bookstores of the past century. It doesn’t take too great of an imagination to envisage running into Arthur Conan Doyle, whose fictional hero Sherlock Holmes lived one street over at 221B Baker St.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris
It should be of little surprise that one of the best bookstores on Earth is named after the human race’s most famous wordsmith.
With an ever-changing inventory, Shakespeare and Company deals in both rare books collections — original pressings of Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, W. Somerset Maugham and more — as well as new releases.
Located in Paris’ famous Latin Quarter, where American beat poets smoked, drank, loved and wrote, Shakespeare and Company is that rare bird; a decidedly Parisian institution owned and operated by Americans.
Founded in 1951 by book-loving oddball George Whitman, a visit to the store is now a must for book lovers in Paris. Shakespeare and Company’s street-side cafe is an ever popular place to sip coffee, munch on a croissant and occasionally look up from one’s book to ogle passersby — all while in the shadow of Notre Dame.