I have an inherent love for bookshops. When books began to get digitalized, I was excited about the change. I tried to read comics on my iPad and was impressed with the idea of flipping through each panel rather than just the page. However, the “ease” of reading books on digital devices lost its favour. Last year my daughter insisted – as 9-year-old kids often do – that she wanted a Kindle for her birthday. 3 months after the purchase it lies in the back of an almirah somewhere. We’re both back to reading books the old-fashioned way and thus visits to bookshops have become a recurring excursion.
The other change that has come up is the dominating presence of online bookstores which do provide a simple and often cheap way to acquiring books but continue to be less personal.
In an attempt to keep the joy of reading alive and in the process appreciate the magic of bookstores that provide us with a beautiful sanctuary away from the maddening world, I’ve gone back to visit more independent bookshops. I still do visit the chains every now and then as some of them truly stand out, but when possible, prefer to do my research and find something small and unique instead.
On my blog – where you are right now – you are likely to find some bookstores that I choose to cover in-depth, but I felt it necessary to list the ones that might not get a chance in the spotlight but nevertheless deserve to.
Here is a collection of bookstores and libraries from around the world…
Library of Birmingham – Birmingham, UK – The library’s architecture might have divided people into two groups of those who love it and those who don’t, but the fact remains that it adds to the cultural aspect of the city and leaves a positive impression on everyone who comes to visit or use it.
As an “outsider” you can still go up to the two viewing stations that give panoramic views of the city or read a book inside. For members, it’s a treasure trove of every kind of book possibly available including some rare finds. Other additions include gallery space for displays and a BFI Mediatheque.
Metropolitan Szabo Ervin Library – Budapest, Hungry – “I came across the Metropolitan Szabo Ervin Library in Budapest thanks to Instagram. It is every reader’s dream! Named after a Hungarian Librarian and social scientist, the library is situated in the heart of the city. There are no charges to visit this gorgeous baroque paradise.” – Photo and Words by Ishita Sood.
Chapter 101 – Gurgaon, India – A quaint little bookshop inside a mall in the city that houses some rather hard to find and unique books. It is curated especially and often avoids the more commonly popular authors and titles, although it has a bunch of classics, and even sells early editions of many books.
The Book Barge – UK and France – I came across Sarah and her Book Barge when it was moored on a canal in Birmingham, UK. Besides the obvious novelty of being a bookstore on water, there’s a certain charm to being in the petite shop that sways gently as one browses along a magnificent collection. I remember Sarah recommending “Diary of a Nobody” to me, which remains one of my favourite reads till date.
A quick glance at the website and this is the present status of the Book Barge – “The Book Barge launched in 2009 as an independent bookshop on a 60′ narrowboat plying the British waterways. Now based in Burgundy, France, it will be reopening in 2019 and also available for hire as a reading and writing retreat.”
Book Stalls at Indian Railway Stations – India – “You’ll find them, some small, some big, on most important stations across the system. There, among stacks of bestsellers are some “railway classics” like Surendar Mohan Pathak, Champak, and cult magazines that report murder, mystery, and the supernatural albeit in a non-fictional setting – whether you believe these sensational stories or not is completely up to you.”
Unkown – Lausanne, Switzerland – A missed opportunity as I never went inside this bookshop but the stacks of books by the window caught my eye as I roamed the streets of Lausanne in search of a place to eat.
At the time of writing, I am in process of using Social Media to get more information about this place. So far all I know is that it may have become a cryotherapy/message centre.
Nostalgia & Comics – Birmingham, UK – The one place in Birmingham that I visit on each and every trip to the “Second City of England”. Not only does this independent comic bookstore have boxes full of new and old comics but also rows full of action figures and other related knick-knacks.
The staff is extremely knowledgeable, to the extent that sometimes I’m almost terrified to ask them a question thinking it might be amateurish. But, they are welcoming and always helpful, so this is just my anxiety acting up.
The other day I was reading about it on the web and found out that it opened in 1977 making it the “second oldest” comic bookshop in England.
Books Books Books – Lausanne, Switzerland – The one store that I had looked up before visiting the city as it sells English language books. It’s more of a large room, with a nice glass frontage, and even has a large selection of “secondhand books” at a fixed price of CHF 5,- each.
The staff is inviting and the even gave me a lovely catalogue for the Penguin Black Collection for free along with my purchase. Moreover, if you enjoy street-art, there is a large mural en route to the shop that makes for a pretty cool photo-op.
Waterstones – Birmingham, UK – Even though Waterstones is a chain, it has a certain vibe to it that makes it different. The staff for one is eager to help, recommend, talk, and just be there when and if you need them.
has had two Waterstones close to each other for many years. It was the other building (not pictured) that I actually loved to visit. It was where I discovered many-a-new authors including one of my favourites Ryu Murakami. I would often spend hours browsing in the grand building, picking up books and keeping them back down, trying to stay within my budget and airline weight limit. Unfortunately, that outlet closed down a few years back, but what resulted was even more spectacular.
The “other” Waterstones was refurbished into a 6-floor dream house for every book lover. Now it has a coffee shop and of course, floors full of all kinds of books you can think of and even book related knick-knacks – I make it a point to leave my credit card home before visiting.
I am presently in two minds on how to organize this page. A part of me wants to break it down based on countries, but the book lover that resides in a small corner of my soul wants you to read about all the bookshops and thus the random order. Let me know what you think.
The idea is to keep this page updated with more bookstores as and when I visit them. But, I want this to be more than just about me. If you know of and like an independent bookstore, and are willing to write a short note about it along with a photo, then shoot me a message and I’ll add it to the list along with a link to one of your social media handles. Thanks