20 January 2008

Bookstore Tourism

My friend Dennis recently sent me this article from CNN: Nine bookstores worth a tourist stop. To my chagrin, I've only been to two of them (Powell's City of Books in Portland and The Strand in New York City), but there are a lot of juicy destinations on that list, from Coral Gables, Florida to Seattle, Washington.

Unfortunately it seems like I have a jinx on the bookstores I love: my treasured hometown bookstores where I collected the American Girl books volume by volume merged, then failed; the indie struggling next to my college bookstore is now an Indian clothing store. But here are a few of my favorites currently in operation, and maybe if you visit them you can save them:

Best social bookstore: J & J Books & Coffee, Madrid, Spain. This remains the only bookstore I've ever visited with a bar inside. I never bought enough books from this English-language secondhand shop when I lived in Madrid for a semester, but I visited nearly every week for Friday night's British-style pub quiz. If you've never experienced this kind of team trivia competition, it's a blast. They buy back books too, which is useful if you need to make some room in your luggage.

Best selection: Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Washington. I have family in Eastern Washington and it was a special treat to walk around in downtown Spokane reaching for the brass ring at the carousel, drinking lemonade at Cucina Cucina! and drop in here for a new or used book. This store's so big it even contains another store -- Uncle's Games. How cute is that?

Best-looking store: B&N Bookstop, Houston, Texas. It's a chain, I know, but it's a chain set inside a classic Art Deco theatre whose inside, besides the addition of shelves and carpet, has changed very little since the original movie palace closed in 1983. Check out these incredible photos by Flickr user outerspace. Morally opposed to buying from Barnes & Noble? See the sights and then hop over to Kaboom Books, a delightful used nook born after its sister store in New Orleans was forced to close due to Hurricane Katrina. As far as I know, the original French Quarter store is in operation again, but hopefully they'll keep a foot in Houston, too.


Elizabeth said...

I've been to Politics & Prose. While in the coffee shop, my husband made a comment something to the effect of, browsing in bookstores is fun, but if he wants to read something he'll get it out of the library and if he wants to buy something he'll get it off Amazon because it's always cheaper. The barista gasped and almost dropped her cup of coffee. "How can you SAY that?!" she wailed. His father pretended not to know him.

My favorite bookstore is, of course, the Seminary Co-Op in Hyde Park. I own stock!

Ellen said...

How does a bookstore with stock work, exactly?

Sadly these days my budget has forced me to be more like Morgan than I'd like, which is why I haven't really found "my" NYC bookshop yet. Someday...

Anonymous said...

This one is really wonderfull as well and worth a trip to the south of the Netherlands...

selxyz dominicanen is situated in an old church. It is quit impressive


Elizabeth said...

The way the Co-Op works is that you pay $30 to become a member (part-owner!), for which you are issued a pretty stock certificate. You also get a 10% discount (which means you make back your $30 the first time you buy textbooks there). When you decide you no longer want to be a member (such as when you move away from Chicago), you can cash in your stock to get your $30 back.

The membership is also good at 57th Street Books down the street, which is also a very nice bookstore (though much smaller and more mainstream).

I also think that whenever they make a profit (i.e., never), they send you a refund based on your purchased (e.g., a retroactive 12% discount), and also (theoretically) there are issues that the members can vote on.

Elizabeth said...
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