Hot list via silly Buzzfeed of bookstores worth visiting.
In London, there was always Hatchards, on Piccadilly, a block or so from the Circus, and near F&M for dry goods. Hatchards always felt like a book store should. Tight quarters, cramped, almost, and books floor to ceiling. I am unsure if it is still there. Probably is, but it might be owned by a faceless larger corporations.
I recall Hatchards had a scene in a sprawling historical epic called London, and that earned a spot in my heart for both bookstores and that city’s (literary) history.
But for more local places, bookstores in the US?
The last time I was in Seattle for any length time, I passed through the new Eliot Bay Books, and I’m unsure of the current title or designation. More than two decades in the distant past, Sister was living in Seattle, and I was living in Austin. At that time, it seemed like Eliot Bay Books had taken over a city block or more, and there was nascent Seattle coffee culture, in the basement.
A right, good and proper bookstore it was. Recollections from a few years ago yield much less data.
City Lights Books — it’s been a pilgrimage stop for me, every time I’m near SF.
Adventures in Crime and Space — old Austin. Long gone. Three singular events, there. Maybe more, as it wasn’t far from a certain trailer park. The store owner decamped before I did. I met Joe R. Lansdale (Scorpio) there, I met Rick Riodan (Gemini) there, and I heard about a fabled First Edition Hardcover of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash.
I had a working arrangement with at least one Sagittarius clerk, and she was always on with great new reads, many in paperback form.
New Age Books who eventually changed the name to “Whole Life Books,” but remains, forever etched in my mind, as a true bookstore. Stuck in a strip center, that has long since been plowed under, all that remains is a TexMex palace called Maudie’s, a modern Austin icon in itself, but no, the whole center is redeveloped now as mid-rise buildings, and the greasy joints are all gone.
Except for Maudie’s. Good, greasy spoon, dive like feel; although, the menu has updated to less real grease.
As New Age Books, I did readings there, for a variety of organizations, with a variety of splits, 50/50 and then, later, down to some other arrangement. Gemini/Virgo owners, but the really important material? Books. Lots of books from a variety of publishers about all things mystical, metaphysical, religious, or even, space alien.
It was a valuable community resource, and a great bookstore. It felt like a bookstore should. The two central figures knew a great deal about most of the topics they carried, having — apparently — read most of the books.
Book People used to be a favorite, as the largest independent bookstore in Texas, but after a few negative situations, not handled well by the staff, I’ve sort of written them off. I used to see Kinky Friedman there, and some place on the site, I’ve got a shot of him with a lit robusto cigar in hand, underneath a no smoking sign.
As the largest independent, they turned a blind eye to helping other Texas independents like myself. Then, too, when they had metaphysical questions, they used to just send folks down the road to the New Age Bookstore.
Half-Price Books — always a favorite, because, as it turns out, the owners are lovers of books.
Bookstores have books.