Why you should care
Because who doesn’t love that old-book smell?
Used bookstores are like a magnet that irresistibly draws book lovers. For some, it’s the smell — that dusty, musty scent of permanence pressed into pages. For others, it’s the romance of wandering among previously thumbed-through texts that bear scribbled notes and margin messages. Or maybe it’s simply that feeling of being in the presence of well-loved books. So many to be read and loved again.
From a TV-famous U.K. shop popular for its rare stock to a heavens-high store in Colombia with a mythological name, take a peek inside these creaky, geeky homes of recycled tomes and paperbacks — and, in the case of one, a celebrity bookstore cat.
Bookworms, we bring you:
In a dilapidated building in downtown Johannesburg lies a haphazard treasure. Spread over five stories, with books piled on the staircases and all the way up to the ceilings, Collectors Treasury is a massive and book-stuffed shop of wonders. It’s worth a stop just to meet one of the eccentric owners who have been helming the store for 50 years.
A literal cornerstone of Carrera 16, Torre de Babel is the pinnacle of used-book browsing on the Bogotá thoroughfare. It’s also Colombia’s largest bookstore. But the biggest draw of this shop with a biblical name and philosophical origins is its sky-high offerings. Stretching into the heavens with room upon room of books, the shop is a delightful labyrinth of lore … and books.
There’s only one Down in Denver bookstore in the U.S. but it’s definitely not in Denver. This quirky bookstore, run by a Scottish transplant and her perma-pouty cat, Orson, is in rural New York state and has a curious Beat connection. Once you get past the shop’s unusual decorative touches, you’ll be drawn in by the books. And did we mention the fresh cookies?
Talk Story Bookstore exists mostly because of a momentary weather phenomenon, which is a good enough story on its own. But there’s more to this little Hawaiian shop with its “westernmost” claim to fame. Built in 1930, the storefront resembles that of a Wild West watering hole. The cowboy vibe stops at the door, though — with the shop’s celebrity cat.
Collinge & Clark is famous for three things, foremost for being the iconic storefront in a British TV comedy. But don’t bring that up with the owner. He’d rather the one-room London shop be recognized for its popular contents — beautiful (and pricey) specialist texts that his clients say they can’t find elsewhere. The third famous thing? Read on to find out.
More Bookstores to Check Out
- Vietnam’s Quirky “Accidental” Bookstore: You’ll spot this curious bookshop right away — the building’s bricks are painted to look like books.
- The Tiny Welsh Town Devoted to Books: Just about every other building here is a secondhand bookshop — around two dozen in total.
- Bookshop Home to the Most Adorable Book Collector: Ken Sanders Rare Books in Utah sells everything from rare Mormon works to cheap used paperbacks.
- Mexico’s Favorite Communist Library: Although it’s not a bookshop, the books are used and there’s a small membership fee. Aeromoto is all about sharing texts — especially those around art and ideas.