I am a book geek. Not only do I always bring home a book from the bookstore EVERY time I visit (even though my intent was just a scouting trip) I also make finding the nearest bookstore a priority every place I visit…San Diego, Honolulu, New York, even visited the few English bookstores in Tokyo (where it’s standard procedure to neatly wrap the cover of paperbacks with butcher paper so that no nosey subway passengers are privy to your choice of literature. I have to admit it felt all so clandestine!).
Years ago I went to Las Vegas with a group of friends complete with feather boas and themed t-shirts. The ladies and I went to shows, we shopped, we played the slots. After a day my book radar did a scan and nary a blip was found. Nowhere and at no time during the 3 days we vacationed did I find a bookstore. It was so bizarre and between mojitos I found it very disconcerting. No pocket books in the gift store at the hotel, no bookstore in the airport (unless I missed it) no bookstore anywhere on the strip. Now I realize most people don’t go to Vegas to read and I certainly didn’t go to Vegas to read, but if there ever was a reading emergency I would have been hooped. I have to admit it freaked me out some. I have since learned there actually is a bookstore in the mall on the “strip”. I blame the previously mentioned mojitos for not being able to spot it.
Booktown. Sidney British Columbia. One summer I was looking to visit Vancouver Island and I found an advertisment for a new spa hotel opening in Sidney. Google-ing “Sidney BC” I happily found out that Sidney is also referred to as “Booktown” Canada. Having only 11 000 residents it boasts 12 bookstores making it Canada’s only “Booktown”. My favorite is Beacon Books right on Beacon street and well within walking distance of the hotel, but you can check out the “Haunted bookstore” and several other as well. Now you won’t be partaking in beverages of the alcoholic nature on Sidney’s promenade, and if you glance into any restaurant you will see a sea of grey heads, but it is charming and slow and the Thursday summer market rivals the one I’ve visited in San Francisco. If you’re interested http://www.sidneybooktown.ca will give you all the information you need.
Paris. Home of THE most charming, eclectic bookstore ever to be found on the Left Bank. It’s called Shakespeare and Company. I discovered it over fifteen years ago during my first trip to Paris and I make sure to visit it every time I return. The last time I was in Paris I was accompanied by a group of students. It was wonderful seeing the excitement and wonder they had exploring this store on their own. Shakespeare and Co possesses within its walls both new and used books. It smells of history and dust and imagination. There are little beds scattered throughout the store, squished between shelves and tables. You can sleep in the store for free if you promise to work 2 hours a day and, what I love, read a book a day. There is a piano with a cheerful sign written in black pen inviting patrons to “play me”. Written above the entrance is the phrase “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise” inviting all to enter. Check out Shakespeare and Company on http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com
I’m holding out for the piece de resistance. A small town in Wales called Hay on Wye. http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk . The mecca for all bibliophiles. 41 Bookstores, 1500 inhabitants. I don’t think I could handle the excitement of the Guardian book festival in the spring, but I live to walk the streets of the village, ducking into bookstores, stopping for tea, dodging into another bookstore….
Just as a bookcase is the soul of a home, I believe bookstores are the soul of a city. Filled with history, and adventures …a place of escape from reality even if it is only for an afternoon.