The World’s 11 Most Unique Bookstores?

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Somehow I started receiving e-mails from Fodor’s Travel the other day. I do not recall signing up for its newsletter but then I compulsively sign up for contests without reading the terms so it is probably that I agreed to get the news letter as part of the terms. There are worse fates in life.

Anyway it had an interesting piece entitled “The 11 Most Unique Bookstores in the World” mixed in with what to do in Cabo and similar pieces. I live near Powell’s City of Books, one of the largest independent book stores in the world (according to Powell’s) and was interested in what made the list.

A pair were also bars as well as bookstores, BookBar in Denver and Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Washington D.C. and while that is not a bad thing, I think I would prefer to do my drinking and reading combination in a more secluded environment such as a cozy café or at home after I have purchased a book. I could easily see drinking too many beers while ready some comedy. However they both look very comfy so maybe I should give them a try next time I am in the area.  A third was a champagne bar, Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar.

A slight variation on this theme is the Brazenhead Books in New York, where after his rent became to high the owner moved the store to his apartment and made it by appointment only. Oh, and he also made the place into a speakeasy as well. Kudos on creativity.

The largest is the Book Garden in Tehran, with 700,000 square feet and a rooftop park where you can go read. It even offers 1,000 free books to read on the roof. The photo supplied has a spacious, open store. I have to admit that I prefer crowded, stuff places that have the interesting book aroma.

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Bart’s Books

It has entries for most colorful in Saraiva Bookstore in Rio de Janeiro, the most outdoorsy in Bart’s Books in Ojai, California, and the most romantic with the aptly named The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, California. None of those really grabbed my interest to be honest. Another unique looking place, La Caverne aux Livres, in a former home of Vincent Van Gogh as well as in a train station and a few rail cars. In Auvers-sur-Oise, France it looks interesting but not sure I would go out of my way for it.

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Livraria Lello

The one that I would really have liked to visit, and had no idea about when I was there was the Livraria Lello, a gorgeous bookstore in Porto, Portugal. Purportedly the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books and movies it is a combination of Neo-Gothic and Art Noveau stylings.

So check out the article and see if any appeal to you and if you have a favorite drop me a line and let me know about it. Not that I have anything against drinking and reading but four bars in the top 11? One fun fact is that in reading all of the bookstores’ web sites I found that Fodor had previously run a World’s 20 Most Stunning Bookstores article. I did not check it out but it seems to me that it’s cheating to then run one on 11.

The Guggenheim E-Books

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I have always enjoyed museums and visit them whenever I see one. I have visited some interesting ones in the US and abroad including the Carnegie Museum, a great small town one in Roseville, Calif. and the Bread Museum in Ulm, Germany, (one of four bread museums in Germany.)

However what little art history and appreciation that I might have once possessed has long since abandoned me. This is really not an issue when looking at Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist and many other art movements. It is when I hit the 20th Century that I am at a loss. It never occurs to me when I am at the library or book store to get a basic book that might explain what I am looking at and how art progressed to this point.

Enter the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. I am not sure where I found the link but the museum has a great offer for free e-books on art, and primarily on Modern art. There is little I like better than free books, ok, free anything is pretty great to be honest. More than 200 books and catalogs from shows are available including Picasso and the War Years and a number of books on different stages of Kadinsky’s career.

It is not all modern art as there are books on 5,000 years of Chinese art and the Aztec Empire to name others. As a bonus there is also a link to New York’s Museum of Modern Art that has a digital record of every exhibit held at the museum since 1929 that you can explore online.

Almost as important for me there is a short book, fewer than 50 pages, Elements of Modern Painting, on how to view modern art.  I hope that this will enable me to understand what is going on and that it is not just a black canvas.

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Mark Rothko no. 7 Mixed Media on Canvas

One caveat. The books have flaws from the scanning process. If you are familiar with digital books you might barely notice, but if not be forewarned that there might be odd symbols or space breaks in words. One book that I downloaded Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection: From Picasso to Pollock, appeared to be in some strange foreign language. However the price was right.