Sunday, 15 June 2014

18 Bookshops you must visit by Miriam Halahmy

My mother's eldest sister, Stella, is the only of the family still alive and is a sprightly 97 years old. She was born in London in 1916, which to the British forever means the year of the battle of the Somme. Stella lives in Oxnard about one hour north of Los Angeles, with her second husband, Bob. I have visited her every five years since the kids were small. On my very first trip Stella took us to Bart's Books in Ojai, Ventura County, California. Just a short drive from their home. The wonderful thing about Bart's Books is that it is partly an outdoor bookshop, something which would be almost impossible in rainy Britain.

Stella and Bob sitting in the yard at Bart's Books.
Bart's Books has just reached it's 50th year and Stella wrote me a beautiful note, sending me a cutting from the Ventura County Star newspaper, featuring the bookshop and pointing out that it has just been named one of the 18 bookstores worldwide that book lovers must visit.
 Bart's Books is probably the most quirky bookstore on the list and I've visited it twice. They leave books on shelves outside the store and have an honesty box which is a slot box on the front door. They used to have coffee tins on top of the shelves for coins and for a while people apparently just threw change over the walls into the open-air courtyard on the other side.

With Stella and Bob, 2012, Oxnard

I then did a search for this list of the 18 best bookstores worldwide and here's the link.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, is the other bookstore on the list I frequented when I lived in Paris for a year. But somehow it doesn't seem such a big find as it's only round the corner.

I did wonder about other book shops. How about City Lights in San Francisco, with the Jack Kerouac alley down the side and it's alternative, beat poet links?

But maybe I'm just thinking of my own list of bookstores that I've visited and loved. We went on two memorable holidays to Hay on Wye in the 1990s and the kids were very struck by the 'town with the books' as they called it. They loved rummaging about in the bargain bins while their grandpa read with total concentration.

It's very difficult to get me past any bookshop in any part of the world in any language. Books suction me towards them whether they are in bookshops....

or libraries
Or anywhere else really. Lists are never definitive. I might not have visited all the 18 bookstores on that particular list but I've had the pleasure of visiting a lot of wonderful book shops and book stalls all around the world.
What are your favourite bookshops?


Pippa Goodhart said...

Much Ado Bookshop in pretty little Alfriston in East Sussex is completely wonderful. small, but with every book carefully selected and beautifully displayed, it is the most tempting of places. includes selected second hand books and very beautiful cards. Do visit if you get the chance.

Emma Barnes said...

I've been to Oxnard, but didn't know about the bookshop - darn!

Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara, just a little further north along the coast, is also a fantastic bookshop.

Back in the British Isles, I recently went to the Children's Bookshop in Lindley, Huddersfield - a wonderful treasure trove for children's book nuts! I really liked the mixture of old and new titles.

Richard said...

I've found myself wandering into bookshops in various countries, and then having to remind myself that I don't speak the language and that there will be absolutely nothing in there that I can read.

The British are crazy enough to do the impossible. Outside bookshop in Hay:,-3.085098&spn=0.345844,0.802689&cbll=52.074248,-3.126135&layer=c&panoid=gVXOGcGWjPKMFNipYO8n8g&cbp=12,214.12,,0,3.46&t=h&z=11 Complete with honesty box. Maybe not up there with the 18 best in the world though -- more the overspill from the bargain bins.

Miriam Halahmy said...

I do the same thing Richard. I don't really care if I can't speak the language - its just the beauty of being in a lovely bookshop. I can see I'll have to make notes after this blogpost. All these suggestions are great.