Saturday, March 13, 2010


What is it that makes one bookstore wonderful and the next one kind of, meh.

I was in a variety of bookstores today hunting for a book for one of Eldest's classes....I went to my preferred bookstore first, Alibri in BCN on Blanes.  It doesn't look like that great a bookstore.  Almost a little big boxish with a slightly industrial feel to it.  No interior designer work done, a little too spacious for the current field of bookstores, lots of books on tables that are a little too low to be easily read, and a huge huge huge section of language learning books in the second room all give it a superficial feel that maybe it won't be so great.  But look at the books.  Best English language selection I have found YET in BCN, and great books too.  Listen, we're talking a selection smaller than a fairly crappy airport bookstore, a lot smaller and there are GOOD books there, not schlock at all.  Then there are the folks that work there, super helpful and knowledgeable.  I had a bit of a book conundrum because the requested book turned out to be out of print.  We started searching for an alternative.  All four women working there helped.  Very cool.

And, they ladies checking out the books have chairs!  Not only that, they were drinking tea from ceramic mugs while they were doing it.

Maybe that's the trick, subtle work in place to keep the folks working happy and a great selection of books.  I always come out poorer in pocket and richer in mind. Today's haul?  Alice Munro in Spanish, she hasn't been translated to Catalan yet, No entenc el món àrab by Tahar Ben Jelloun in Catalan and Morrison's Song of Solomon in English plus Zadie Smith's On Beauty in English. (how someone can be so beautiful, so creative, so smart and so capable is amazing, no?)  Sweet that I was buying books in three languages, no? (even if I can't read the Spanish one yet, maybe I should try.)

Another store I really like is Altair, on Gran Via.  Primarily a travel shop it also carries a wide range of literature that is set in related parts of the world, Kerrouac On the Road, of course etc.....all done by region.  One of the things I like here is that they simply mix the languages up. You go in and there's a Spanish book beside a Catalan beside an English flanked by a French and German.  Sweet.  Comfy armchairs, designer cosy decor, if they don't have hardwood floors it feels like they do.  A bookstore you  could spend a day in (and a fortune).

Then there is FNAC, they have a big bookstore in there, they have a lot of books, but it is totally blech.  Teens with McJobs working the aisles, no one knows anything, like shopping in a train station.  Blech blech blech, definitely last resort.

Grand Libreria Catalana across from El Corte Ingles, I end up in there cause it's big but the folks who work there are subtly surly, maybe it's the lack of chairs and the incredibly cramped space they've stuffed the English language books into so tight you can't get back enough to read the titles and the ones down at your knees?  No hope.  The organisation in the place seems strange too.  Meh.  Good store, but somehow cold.

I think about the stores I like most, and the decor is good, coffee shops are fine, but knowledgeable interested happy staff coupled with a good range of books RULES!

So, where's your favourite bookstore, and why?

Gosh, I never even got to used stores!!!!


Nomad said...

I DO love to read you every day! I just noticed your book list - you are so great! (Amazon will be thanking you for that!) I see some Roald Dahl, just finished "The BFG" and "The Campion of the World" w R". LOVED them, will have to order the next two on your list. SUCH a good idea! Thanks! Hope you are all well!

Beth said...

You know my favourite (used) bookstore - crowded, sometimes messy but with a helpful and friendly staff and I never leave without a book - or two, or three...

Terrie said...

Amazon and the local Library I'm cheap!

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

Because English is the second language in my city, there are few English bookstores. Second hand stores largely have a not great selection and even then, the more recent novels in used form are more expensive than ordering from Chapters or Amazon. I like to browse in Chapters and then usually order on line for the better pricing. I do wish I lived in a city that had more competitive, even contrasting stores.

Helen said...

I don't use bookshops much because as a public librarian all the books come to us anyway - bit sweeping, they don't all come, but lots of them do, and particular ones I want can be ordered as wanted, and I don't have to pay for any of them.

There have to be some perks to working in the public sector.

oreneta said...

Nomad, Boy and Going Solo are auto-biographies and not so much books for kids...but brilliant nonetheless, have you read James and The Giant Peach???? We're all great...hugs to you all too!

Beth, I think a separate post extolling the virtues of favourite used bookstores is in order too, no?

Terrie, I love Amazon, and your local library is a lovely one! Nice to think of you there. I can picture it.

Bodhi, Thank goodness of on line, no?

Helen, indeed! In TO I use the library, not so much.

J.G. said...

What a lovely selection of stores you have, even without the used ones (which are always the best).

My favorite--so far--is one in Long Island. It had a fabulous selection of nice used books mixed in with new ones, was clean and spacious but a bit shabby (just enough to be comfortable) and had the most incredible black and white checkerboard linoleum floor. I never wanted to leave. Alas, I can't at this moment remember its name although I remember lots of other useless details like where we parked and where we ate afterwards.

oreneta said...

I'm not sure those details are utterly useless....was the meal good?
Have you ever been to Tattered Covers in Denver? I imagine CS has. Liked that bookstore, and there was a totally non-descript used bookstore near where I lived there that was simply AMAZING, a truly fantastic selection and he also had paperbacks for 50 cents and would buy them back for 25. Instant lending library! WOOT.