Written by root. Posted in FEATURES


Published on July 01, 2015 with No Comments

Some of the world’s best independent bookstores and why we love them.



Bookstores are magical places. When in a foreign land, it provides a sanctuary for the mind to take respite. It’s a place for you to dream, find inspiration and connect with other passionate book lovers. Independent bookstores are even more special, as there seems to be a ‘connect’ between customer and owner, especially in times when businesses can become impersonal. A great bookstore is more than just books. It builds relationships. Sometimes, there comes along one or two eccentric ones, but that’s okay. In the language of books, every one has a story to tell. Here, some bookstores you should not miss if your travels bring you there.


Atlantis Books
Oia, Santorini Island, Greece

This is a dream of a bookstore. Located in the basement of one of Santorini’s white houses, Atlantis Books was started by young American and European bibliophiles who fell giddily in love with the Mediterranean. The books are all handpicked by the owners. A haven for readers and writers, the cool quarters also play host to theatres and open-air cinemas, food and film festivals, and writers reading on the terrace. It is one of the most beautiful, if remote, bookstores ever, but with the Aegean Sea staring out at you from the window, who’s complaining?


London, United Kingdom

Stanfords’ Long Acre is a revered institution for travellers and world explorers. Having opened its doors in 1901, it has been the first port of call for a wealth of famous travellers including Captain Robert Scott, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, Florence Nightingale, Michael Palin, Bill Bryson and Ranulph Fiennes. Since its opening, Stanfords has supplied explorers with the maps, guides and gadgets they need for their expeditions. It was even referred to in the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. Today, it is the world’s largest map retailer and stocks some very specialist items from unusual and hard to find places. Maps, books, travel accessories, globes – there is always something inspiring to find for your next adventure.


Dakwah Corner Bookstore
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Small and modest, this bookstore with branches in Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Bangi has gained a large following for various reasons. Foremost of which is its wide collection of authentic Islamic books from renowned publishers such as Darussalam, IBT and Goodword. There are also multimedia, CDs and DVDs by such acclaimed speakers like Mufti Ismail Menk, Sheikh Hussain Yee, Dr Bilal Philips, Dr Zakir Naik and Sheikh Yusuf Estes, as well as children’s books and games. In addition, Dakwah Corner often hosts conferences and motivational talks, such as the recent Straight Path Convention with speakers Abdurraheem Green and Dr Muhammad Salah, to name a few, both known for their contemporary Islamic lectures in accordance with the Qur’an and authentic teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).


Shakespeare and Company
Paris, France

This legendary bookstore in Paris was once the favourite hangout for Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Henry Miller and James Joyce. Set in an early 17th-century building, customers and tourists alike come here to to be transported in time. Weather-battered book racks, rustic signage – it all harks back to the Paris of yesteryear. Inside are shelves and tables packed with books, a narrow stairs and reading nooks all around. Opened in 1951 where plumbing was even questionable, the bookstore now has touches of the 21st Century, with an annual summer readings and a cafe. It is indeed, a Paris literary institution. And yes, the plumbing thankfully works now.


The Book Lounge
Cape Town, South Africa

This two-storey shop occupying a beautiful building in Cape Town’s Eastern Precinct boasts of beautiful biblios and interiors. Graceful chandeliers hang above comfy armchairs, large windows overlook the street, and the air is relaxed with an old world charm, thanks to the heritage building it occupies. The kids section hosts storytelling every Saturday, while adults can browse through various titles and sit at the lounge with a menu of coffee, tea and cupcakes. The Book Lounge also offers other interesting programmes periodically, such as interviews with authors and book launches.


Daikanyama T
Tokyo, Japan

Three swanky buildings connect together with a 55-meter long aisle cutting through the middle at ground level. This basically forms the foundation for the six book emporium that branches out by category. Cafe space is housed within the complex to allow for leisurely in-store browsing. There are vintage books, back issue magazines, art books, a specialist camera store – even a travel desk with a concierge to help you plan what you’re just only browsing. A lounge and convenience store completes the cool, campus-like environment, and certainly it is the most sophisticated bookstore ever built.


10 Corso Como
Milan, Italy

Located in an industrial building in the inner courtyard of a traditional Milanese palazzo, 10 Corso Como is a network of spaces all rolled into one experience. Founded in 1990, 10 Corso Como is a multifunctional space, a meeting place, union of culture and commerce and marks the beginning of total shopping. The bookstore has an amazing selection of publication on art, architecture, design, graphics, fashion and photography. It’s been described as one of the world’s coolest bookshops. Which isn’t surprising. After all, this is the place the city’s fashion, art and design illuminati hang out.


Academic Bookstore
Helsinki, Finland

The Helsinki flagship store is the largest bookshop in Scandinavia. Within the famed architectural design of Finnish Alvar Aalto houses a wide-ranging selection of titles in English, German, Italian, and other languages (more than 400,000 in stock). Its minimalist marble interior is reason enough for a visit, lit by geometric glass skylights that illuminate all three of its floors. The second floor balcony Cafe Aalto is a great place to unwind with its own bakery.


The Little Bookroom
Melbourne, Australia

In its history The Little Bookroom has only had three sets of owners, all of whom have been committed to continuing its iconic legacy: dedicating itself to the kids’ audience. Shoppers come here to immerse themselves in hundreds of beautifully illustrated books that are bursting with colour. It delights not just the kids, but adults, too. As the first children’s bookstore in Australia, there is little The Little Bookroom does not do to keep the young ones happy. Apart from the hundreds of book titles in contemporary children’s literature, there are also engaging storytelling sessions and storytime yoga that continues to endear this shop to many.

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