Special Briefing: The World’s Weirdest Used Bookstores
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because if you weren’t a voracious reader, you wouldn’t be here.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
Amazon is OK for convenience (and if you don’t care about the slow destruction of local supply chains), but finding a good book isn’t really about convenience. Part of the joy of book shopping is browsing for hidden gems in a gallimaufry of titles, then figuring out how you’ll get the one you suddenly desperately need from the bottom of the stack. Finding the perfect bookstore is the same way — you have to do some digging.
OZY’s global correspondents have done the work for you, unearthing five great bookshops spread across the world, all with the same mission: get you a stack of books you didn’t know you needed. Now it’s up to you to find the time to actually read them.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
A curmudgeon’s landmark. London bookshop Collinge & Clark got famous as the exterior filming location for the bookshop in the British comedy Black Books— and if you don’t know what that is, skip straight to What to Watch. The shop’s real owner though has been known to throw people out of his shop for irritating him, and he’d prefer you gawk at his rare titles rather than his shop’s TV connection.
Sheer volume. If you lined up all the books in Johannesburg’s Collectors Treasury bookstore end to end, they’d reach all the way to Durban, South Africa. Inside the shop, they take up eight full floors, and they don’t even fit on the shelves — they’re piled up behind doors, up the staircases and yes, of course, in the bathroom. The books range in price from $5 to upward of $10,000, so choose carefully from the teetering stacks.
A cut above. Bogotá is famous for its bookstores, but the very best of the secondhand shops in the Colombian capital can only be Libreria Torre de Babel. While its thoroughfare is filled with book-hawking street vendors, inside you’ll find the city’s largest used-book selection spread over multiple floors, along with sofas just begging you to sit and read for a while before buying.
Way out West.Talk Story Bookstore’s claim to be the westernmost U.S. bookstore might get you in the front door of this Hawaiian staple, just so you can say you set foot in it. But it’s the 150,000 books inside that’ll get you to stay. Owners Ed and Cynthia Lynn Justus came to Hawaii for their honeymoon and never left, settling in the rugged small town of Hanapepe, also famously home to the title characters of Lilo & Stitch.
Meow hear this.Down in Denver, which is confusingly located in rural New York state, isn’t the place to go for comfy extras. No chairs, no coffee shop, just handpicked books stuffed into every inch of this 1848 building, which has been a bookshop for just over 30 years and run by Scottish transplant Louise Hendry for just two. Hendry’s helped by her gray cat, Orson — who is, of course, Instagram famous.
WHAT TO READ
A Bodice Ripper Set in L.A., by Amy Benfer at Bloomberg
“Sisters Bea and Leah Koch opened The Ripped Bodice in a peppermint-pink storefront in Culver City, Calif., piling the shelves with titles such as Bliss, Sweet Revenge and Camelot Burning.”
How the Owner of the Greatest Mystery Bookstore Pulled the Genre Out of the Muck, by Dan Nosowitz at Atlas Obscura
“Inside, every square inch of walls leading up to what must be 20-foot ceilings are packed with any book in which someone violently dies.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Best Bernard Black Moments
British comedy series Black Booksfollows a crotchety bookstore owner as he attempts to get out of doing absolutely anything.
Watch on Channel 4 on YouTube:
Shakespeare and Company: The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart
“Since the beginning, writers have been invited to live in the store, given the affectionate nickname Tumbleweeds.“
Watch on France 24 on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Must love books. A bookstore at the Soneva Fushi luxury island resort in the Maldives is looking for someone to drop everything and come sell books at what the claim is the most remote bookstore in the world. The ideal candidate would also maintain the shop’s blog, in between selling books to vacationers and lying on the beach living the dream.