Sunday, 21 November 2010

The best bookshops - one hopes they’re not a dying breed

Today - or yesterday since I am writing this so near midnight as I hopelessly failed to get to bed last night before 4:00 proper - I have found a list of the best bookshops I have ever seen from Lonely Planet. I really hope bookshops survive the e-book revolution since I have a strong romantic love for books and CDs that I enjoyed in my childhood, but I am not optimistic judging by the news on this topic that has arrived lately. (Paper will still be in demand even if print books become obsolete for such uses as paper towelling, which when dealing with coffee and similar stains is totally indispensable since cloth cannot be washed). Often I feel that change makes things slip away from me and I continue to look for books in print - preferably early hardcover editions like one of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s proto-Wicca Lolly Willowes that I lent to my half-sister whilst she works in a rehabilitation clinic for her alcohol problems. (To be honest, I feel perhaps I should have done that sort of work when I had really nasty temper tantrums that had me banned from RMIT and Monash when I masturbated in the library, but I do not know what Mummy’s response would have been nor whether I could have done something like that just for violent burst of anger).

In any case, Lonely Planet’s list comperised:
  • City Lights Books, San Francisco
  • Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Livraria Lello, Oporto, Portugal
  • Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France
  • Daunt Books, London, England
  • Another Country, Berlin, Germany
  • The Bookworm, Beijing, China
  • Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Bookàbar, Rome, Italy
  • Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece
It’s perhaps too bad that although I went to London and Berlin a few summers ago , I never went to either of the bookshops listed and in London came away a little disappointed at what I saw despite buying a couple of good books on my favourite hobby of old county cricket - even something as romantic as old county cricket is being digitised as I collect Wisdens even older than a few years ago I ever dreamed I would.

It’s also a pity in the context of this e-book revolution and my love of old things that secondhand bookstores appear to have been ignored. Strand Books in New York was for me more of a highlight of my trip last summer than even City Lights, which I did visit (and told my brother in reference to the Catholic influence on the Beats that Pope Benedict XVI would be more at home there than in most of the atheistic Pacific Northwest). If what I experienced of England is a guide, there must be a lot of really good secondhand shops there that have many valuable classic books (it is only since he died that I have even looked at my father’s collection) and a list of these would be wonderful - more so than of new bookstores.

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