Brilliant bookstores

Originally published at: Brilliant bookstores | Boing Boing


Lists like these are useful to the extent that they prompt discussion about what should, or should not have been included.

For example, I’d have liked to have seen this one:

and perhaps this one:


I know it is the Financial Times but carrying stock like this

SMITH, Adam.

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

London: printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1776


doesn’t make it a brilliant bookshop for me.

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Frankly, all the best bookstores are children’s bookstores.

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Inb4 all the Black Books gifs.



Many of mine are closed. :disappointed:

But COAS in Las Cruces is surprisingly great:


I’m glad somebody mentioned COAS. And, they’re located in a downtown that’s finally coming back to life!


Moe’s is still open. Plus, they just went union this year! IWW (Wobblies) are still strong in the Bay Area. The union of Eugene V. Debs & Joe Hill.


Is Revolution Books unionized?

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A couple of weeks ago we visited the Strand in NYC, and just around the corner is Forbidden Planet. So happy to see them still around!


John K King Books Detroit, MI

I briefly worked there back in the 80s. Millions of used books on four floors in an old glove factory. The rare book room is amazing.


A nice list; it’s hard to go wrong with just about any independent bookstore. However, personally would add Isseido in Tokyo (Jimbocho), Tongmungwan in Seoul (Insadong), and Foster Books in London (Chiswick). :books: :open_book: :slightly_smiling_face:


I’ve heard Foyle’s in London has lost its chaotic labyrinthine charm and now looks like, well, a bookstore. Alas. That place, and the British Museum were my two favourite places to hang out during my brief stint there in 2000.

Dunno what Shakespeare & Co (Paris) looks like these days, but I liked that too.


Oh man, I love the look of that place.


I’ve been there-- it’s amazing. You can get a map to help you navigate, because there’s four floors jam-packed with books to search through:


I haven’t been there in years, but I remember it fondly… even if I had to keep my budget firmly in mind while I was there. :grin:


Working there was pointless in one regard: I spent most of my wages on books. I spent many lunch hours browsing the paperback non-fiction, and in one go could easily find 20-30 that sounded fascinating. They were only $1-$3 then!


I very highly recco Sylvia Beach’s memoir, Shakespeare and Company. She founded the original bookstore, and eventually gave Whitman her blessing after he’d asked whether he could use the name for his own store. He named his daughter after Ms Beach.

She also very bravely published Joyce’s Ulysses, which caused her trouble with the authorities, the author, the bookbinder, typists, proofreaders, the subscribers, a Joyce fanboy nazi…one typist’s husband was so horrified by the manuscript, he threw it on the fire after a brief perusal! Joyce had to reconstruct from notes and memory what had been destroyed. America banned the book, but Hemingway and a friend of his saved the day.

Ms Beach writes,

We managed to get all the copies of Ulysses safely in the hands of subscribers in England and Ireland before the authorities realized it. In the United States, Quinn and one or two other subscribers received their copies, so I got the rest off as quickly as possible. A first batch was sent over, and more were to follow, when I discovered that every copy was being confiscated at the Port of New York. I suspended shipments, and the poor subscribers waited, while I looked around for help.

She told Hemingway of her dilemma. He said, “Give me 24 hours.” He went back to the store the next day, and told her a friend of his in Chicago would contact her, and hip her to the plan. Bernard B (she came to call him St Bernard b/c he rescued Ulysses) said he would get an apartment in Toronto if she paid for it, which she did, and he would smuggle the books across the border.

Then he sent me the address of his new domicile and told me to ship all the copies to him there. I sent them off, and, since there was no ban on Ulysses in Canada, they reached him safely. The job he then undertook was one requiring great courage and cunning; he had to get hundreds of these huge books across the border.

Daily, he boarded the ferry, a copy of Ulysses stuffed down inside his pants, as he described it to me later. It was in the days of bootlegging, so a certain number of odd-shaped characters were around, but that only increased the risk of being searched.

As the work progressed, and he was getting down to the last few dozen copies, Bernard imagined the port officials were beginning to eye him somewhat suspiciously. He was afraid they might soon inquire more closely into the real nature of the business—presumably selling his drawings—that took him back and forth every day. He found a friend who was willing to help him, and the two of them boarded the ferry daily, each with two copies now, since they had to work fast—one in front and one behind; they must have looked like a couple of paternity cases.

What a weight off our friend’s mind, and off his person, when he got the last of his great tomes over to the other side!

If Joyce had foreseen all these difficulties, maybe he would have written a smaller book.



Holy. Crap.

That’s amazing. Yes, I will read more!

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I know that feeling! I worked in bookstores for some time myself, and spent much of my paychecks on the merchandise, for myself and my loved ones. None of my stores are around any more, but I still have the memories (and stuffed bookshelves, and boxes… :rofl: )


I’m trying to picture organizing this in 1922 and getting the ball rolling in under 24 hours. Via telegrams or … ? I’ve no doubt it could be done. But the level of effort - wow.

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