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 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.
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?