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Most beautiful bookshops in the world

Since reading literature on Kindle and buying books via the Net are easy, normal bookshops seem less frequent now. However book lovers argue that a tradit­ional temple of books has a special atmosphere that promotes discovery, entertainment and quiet. This post has found some great book­shops in 30 Most Beautiful Bookshops Around The World; they encourage readers to ignore technology and enjoy the pleasures of real books. Plus I have added a couple of my own favourite bookshops.

1. Polare, Maastricht, Holland This C13th Dominican church became an ornate, classy book­shop. Con­verted in 2006 by architects Merk X, Polare is a temple of books that raises reading to a religious exp­erience. The 3 storey bookshelf, with staircases, elevators and walkways, is massive.

2. First built as the Teatro Grand Splendid in 1919, then a cinema in 1929, Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires in Argentina appeals to the dramatic reader. With frescoed ceilings, ornate carvings and plush crimson stage curtains, it has its original glamour; customers can sit in the theatre boxes which operate as reading rooms.

Ateneo Grand Splendid,  Buenos Aires

 3. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice’s location along the beautiful Italian canal means rubber boot-wearing work­ers have to move books from the floor to higher shelves during reg­ul­­ar flooding. In Nov 2013, people were wading along the streets under water and the buildings were boarded up. But it was still open for business.

4. China’s most beautiful bookshop, Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing was built inside a former government carpark. To find their way into the 4,000 sq m Wutishan Stadium’s under­ground space, visitors follow a yellow-striped road; inside, a replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker” decorates a cash-till made out of old books, and pillars with famous literary verses carved into them.

5. Libreria El Pendulo, Mexico City offers a cultivated way to avoid Mexico’s heat. Customers can scan shelves spanning two stor­eys. Besides browsing through the shelves, visitors can enjoy stand-up comedy or can listen to live music at the café-cum-bookshop.

6. Livraria Lello e Irmao, Porto, Portugal opened in the former Chard­ron Library in 1906. Its Art Nouveau space was dom­inated by a curving staircase with ornate wooden carvings, intric­ate wall panels and columns. Stained glass windows and a skylight, showing the monogram of the shop’s founder José Lello, add to the churchlike appearance. It featured several times in the Harry Potter series.

7. Bart’s bookstore, Ojai, California A great outdoor facility was set up in 1964 by Richard Bartinsdale who left street-side book cases to sell unwanted titles. Visitors left money in a tin. Now, the shop has a million books, many of which are still sold through an honour system, as well as a courtyard & apple trees for chess-players.

Livraria Lello e Irmao, Porto

8. Book Now, Bendigo, Australia Old books are packed tightly onto shelves, laid on tables and cat­eg­orised into little alcoves; timber floorboards and stairs lead up to a book-filled mezzanine. The 60,000 pre-loved books, special­is­ing in Australian literature and history, are housed in a rural Victorian building.

9. Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Wales is a centre for bibliophiles. 30+ bookshops line the narrow streets, the most striking being a set of shelves around the town’s Norman castle. Cust­omers admire crumbling Medieval architecture while perusing second-hand titles; all proceeds go to the castle restoration.

10. Built in the early C17th, the Paris building was originally a French mon­astery, La Maison du Mustier. Sylvia Beach was an American book­seller who moved to Paris and founded the original Shakespeare & Company Paris in 1919. Her bookshop was frequented by Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce in the 1920s. And it was where Beach published James Joyce's cont­roversial book, Ulysses (1922).

American George Whitman opened his new Le Mistral bookshop in 1951 at a differ­ent part of Paris, renamed Shake­s­peare and Company in 1964 in honour of the late Sylvia Beach. It was a gathering place for expat and Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Stein, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Pound, Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and James Baldwin. Whitman even allowed impoverished art­ists and writers to sleep on small beds that doubled as benches in the day, and to borrow his English language literature books. A sense of community was very imp­ortant; he referred to his shop as a socialist utopia masqu­erading as a bookshop.

In 2002 George’s daughter Sylvia Whitman returned to Paris to spend time with her elderly father in his book-kingdom; she int­ro­d­uced the first lit­erary festival in June 2003.

Polare, Maastricht

11. Munro’s Books, Victoria, Canada. In 1963, Jim and Alice Munro set up shop in a long, narrow space on Yates Street, near Victor­ia's cinemas. Proper book shops were rare then, but the location was convenient for younger cin­ema goers, and the staff's interest in new writing trends built a loyal clientele. The shop relocated to larger premises on Fort Street in 1979 and then located in the centre of Victoria’s Old Town location since 1984.

The fine neo-classical Old Town building was first designed for the Royal Bank of Canada in 1909 by Thomas Hooper, architect of many provincial comm­ercial & public buildings. The beaut­iful coffered high ceiling resembled the porch ceiling of the great C2nd library of Ephesus. Jim Munro restored the building to its former glory, with its heritage architecture and striking artwork.

12. The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland, with 2 ks of shelving supporting 100,000 books. In 1998 Wigtown was designated Scotland's Nat­ional Book Town and this has led to a general revival in town, with many buildings refurbished and new businesses opening. The former Customs House and Bank is now home to another of Wigtown's book shops, The Old Bank Bookshop, has five large rooms to browse through.

Munro's Books, Victoria, British Columbia

Book Now bookshop, Bendigo 
in C19th wine and spirit mer­chants' premises


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