Literary legends: Magical bookshops around the world

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Sunny Sichi/Staff

There’s truly nothing better than a good book. As college students, the days of curling up on the couch and getting lost in a novel have turned into days of struggling through academic journals and theoretical nonsense in the deep depths of Main Stacks. The world of books suddenly goes from being magical to being a place of stress. But there’s hope. When you think of bookshops, your mind may jump to Barnes and Noble and Amazon Books, but independent bookstores are a wild card that we can’t forget. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve found it impossible to just walk by one of these. The smell of paper, warm lighting, often jumbled stacks of books, eclectic art and friendly staff are impossible to resist. Because it’s summer, and we at the Clog are sure many of our readers are traveling all around the world, we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorite literary hideaways in every nook and cranny you can find on this planet.

Faulkner House Books

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624 Pirate Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116

Faulkner House Books was the former home of writer William Faulkner and is a self-proclaimed “sanctuary for fine literature.” The small shop is located in the interestingly named Pirate Alley, which is in the French Quarter. After you’ve treated yourself to some beignets from Café Du Monde, you need to check out this wonderful bookshop. Books line shelves that go up to the ceiling, and a chandelier accents the place quite nicely.

Capitol Hill Books

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657 C St. Southeast, Washington, DC 20003

Located right by Eastern Market, a famous food and art market, Capitol Hill Books is the definition of eccentric and eclectic. Books literally fill the windows and spill out to the front. You’ll even find a shelf of books for sale inside the bathroom! Fun markers categorize the different sections, and stacks on stacks of books pile up in the walkways. You’re guaranteed to get lost in the store, but in a good way.

Shakespeare and Company  

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37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

The extremely famous Shakespeare and Company lives up to its name and beyond. Located right across the water from Notre-Dame, this place is known for a photo-worthy front door, for its English-language collection of books and for being a spot where 1920s writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald spent a lot of their time. You’re literally walking among these literary giants when you visit Shakespeare and Co., so if you ever find yourself in the City of Love, make your way here.  

Libreria Acqua Alta

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Calle Lunga S. Maria Formosa, 5176/b, 30122 Castello, Venice, Italy

Venice may be sinking into the sea, but Libreria Acqua Alta has found a way to combat that. How? By putting all their books into buoyant and waterproof containers such as a gondola and bathtubs! It’s whimsical, scrappy and absolutely beautiful. You might even pass it if you take a gondola ride, so keep an eye out!

City Lights Books

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261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133

Flying back to our own Bay Area, one of the great literary powerhouses of the region is City Lights Books. It’s honestly a must-go if you live here. Located by North Beach and Chinatown, City Lights Books has an incredible collection, and it’s easy to spend hours perusing through its contents. Outside, the store has lights that look like flying books hanging above the street, making the place even more magical than it already is.

Antiquariaat Brinkman

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Singel 319, 1012 WJ Amsterdam, Netherlands

Admittedly, as someone who only reads in English, I couldn’t understand most of the books at this shop, but it’s totally worth a visit! The old-fashioned front catches your eye the moment you walk by, and inside, you’ll find antique books and maps. Antiquariaat Brinkman is small but quaint, and it gives you a feel of what it might have been like to walk back into a bookshop in the late 1800s.

Book Den East

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71 New York Ave., Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Book Den East on the island of Martha’s Vineyard is a total hidden East Coast treasure. What actually looks like someone’s home from the outside is, in fact, a lovely bookstore filled with old collections of postcards and antique books. It’s just as pleasant as the island it’s on, and it provides a nice escape from the beach. The people there are super friendly, and the old-fashioned atmosphere really can’t be beat.

The Last Bookstore

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453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013

While it may be the last, it certainly isn’t the least! The Last Bookstore is a gem in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a place at which many locals and tourists alike gather for its quirky and artsy feel. There’s collections of art, vinyls, new books and old — so there’s something for everyone. One of the coolest parts is what looks like a bank vault, but rather than holding gold, it holds a rich collection of conspiracy, crime, horror and other paranormal novels. You’ll probably find a lot of people snapping Instagram photos throughout the store, and while it’s fun to do that, don’t forget to do a little reading as well!  

The world is wide, and we at the Clog have so many more places to go. This list certainly doesn’t capture all the amazing bookstores around the world, so we encourage you not only to visit these stores but also to make a list of your own findings. It’s a pretty tumultuous world out there, and sometimes the only place we find solace is in a book. So the next time you travel, don’t forget to travel into the world of books as well.

Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].