When people I like plan visits to places that I know well, I offer brief reviews: “Glacier is one of my favorite parks!” or “I love the smells of Pike’s Place Market.” When people I adore are going to places that I know well, though, I’m more likely to alert them to my favorite bookish haunts. Most typically, these are the bookstores that made forever impressions, where I found titles I didn’t expect or bespeckled booksellers who truly knew their stuff.
“There’s a great bookstore there!” is how you know you’ve made a reader’s inner circle. Here are the bookstores I’ve nudged my favorite travelers to before, with implicit warm feelings toward you as well.
Tamir Books, Emek Refaim Street, German Colony, Jerusalem Between an over-drinks meeting with a Woman of the Wall and lunch with a fellow, I wandered into Tamir Books, a well-lit shop on a busy corner of Jerusalem’s German colony. (Emek Refaim Street is pretty swank; a good place to visit in general.) They’ve got a good mixture of English and Hebrew titles, and were quick to order a Hebrew translation of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for me when I asked, even though I warned them that I might be home-bound by the time it arrived. (My lunch companion fellow picked it up for me and sent it as a birthday gift. (Good birthday gift.)) Good browsing. Fantastic staff.
Hodges Figgis, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland The only shop on this list that I’ve never actually purchased anything from; makes the list for being bustling, organized, well-stocked, and overall very browseable. Section of Irish authors up front tempted me, but I was on my way to another destination abroad, so I limited myself to appreciation. I’ll be back, Hodges Figgis, I will.
Hein & Company Bookstore, Jackson, California Summer visits to the Sierra Nevada with my Aunt Barbara tend to feature a stop in Jackson, which has a curious political history related to the gold rush and brothels, a great old-timey candy shop, and Hein, which on its own makes Jackson well worth a detour. What Hein is: enormous. California volumes and collectors’ pieces downstairs; rooms of fiction and non-fiction upstairs. Religion has its own room–ahhh! A cat on-the-counter bookstore, which ought to be its own kind of endorsement.
I always mean to spend fifteen minutes or less in Hein; I never make that time allotment. I always mean to take just a title or two; once I had to obtain additional luggage. (What Hein is not: well air-conditioned. I mean, I go in July, and rivulets of sweat running shoeward might be partially the result of title overload, but: wear something light.)
Capitol Hill Books, Washington, D.C. Not for the OCD, because volumes are stacked ceiling-high and layers-deep. I don’t mind that–reminds me of my bedroom, really–but I also have no idea how you’d shop here intelligently. I just didn’t try. I found the religion section (my go-to in a time pinch), lost myself in a Greek biblical synopsis, and bought…something. Is the setting of my profile photo, a favorite because so many books! The person who brings in volumes here does well; lots of old, esoteric, exciting titles.
Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, WA Disclaimer: I believe that this is the bookstore I’m thinking of, but it’s been twenty years, so there’s a real possibility that I’m wrong. What I recall: stepped off the ferry. Wandered into a bookstore facing the water. Twinkling lights across books. A wooden floor. Finding a title I’d been looking for. The feeling of contentment.
There is A bookstore on the waterfront on Bainbridge Island that left me with these memories; I am almost certain that it’s Eagle Harbor, and that you should go.
Pioneer Book, Provo, UT I’ve mentioned Pioneer Book before, but it’s a great store and worth giving double kudos to. One Riot reader revealed that I totally missed the second floor on my first visit; I was just so psyched about the ground level options! Again, if you’re a religion nerd, this is a good place to be. Their Latter-Day Saints section is flush. I walked out with some nearly century old titles that were instantly top-tier in my collection, and for very reasonable prices. Owner knows his stuff. Visit. Buy. Leave some for me.
Towne Center Books, Pleasanton, CA Pleasanton is a perfect town, and Towne Center an ideal stop within it. They stock bestsellers, of course, but their selection is notable for being chock-full of indie titles. Do you have a TBR list made up of Goodreads giveaway books? Yep, they’ve got those. I’m always surprised by how many limited releases–books I’m interested in, but that I don’t tend to encounter while browsing–they carry. They’ve also got a bin of advanced reading copies up front available in exchange for reviews, which is a brilliant way to pass ARCs along. Frequent lunches and events with writers. A fantastic and unique bookstore.
Happy shopping! And feel free to share your own favorites in the comments.