Fellow reader, we’ve come a long way from the Guttenberg press to e-books. But ya know what – just because you can read a book without flipping a page, doesn’t mean you have to. For some of us book lovers, there’s nothing quite like walking into the neighborhood bookstore, and spending hours flipping through book after book until we are thoroughly intoxicated with the smell of the pages. Wherever technology may take us, the bookstore will always hold a special place in our heart, and on this here National Book Lovers Day, we present the 5 best cities to pick up your next book*.
5. Pasadena, CA
Where to go: Vroman’s Bookstore
As the oldest bookstore in SoCal, dating back to 1894, if these walls could talk, there would be stories to tell. Still family-owned, this independent stalwart even stepped in a couple of years ago and purchased the venerable Book Soup in West Hollywood when it was in danger of closing. In addition to serving up the now-customary lattes with your literature, Vroman’s has pulled in literary legends from Upton Sinclair to Ray Bradbury to David Sedaris for in-store signings.
4. Washington, DC
Where to go: Politics & Prose Bookstore
Patrons rave as much about the coffee and treats as they do the selection of books and author talks. Don’t be put off by the name – Wee ones, wonkish types and fiction lovers rub shoulders here, in a satisfying search of their next great read (folks love the Children’s and Young Adult sections, too). Tip: Author talks and events are usually standing room only; get there early.
3. San Francisco, CA
Where to go: City Lights
Oh, snap! Make a counter-cultural pilgrimage to one of the epicenters of the original beatnik movement at iconic City Lights: The owner published Allen Ginsberg’s beat poem “Howl” and was brought up on obscenity charges. In a landmark ruling, the poem was protected by the First Amendment. Tip: Grab a bite in nearby Chinatown and then head here for a perfect SF afternoon.
2. Portland, OR
Where to go: Powell’s Books
Fans call Powell’s “a-MAZE-ing”: A literal (pun intended) labyrinth of books, you’ll find just about any title or topic you can think of here, and plenty more. Among the features that make Powell’s an institution: A rare book room, great selection of first editions and vast used book section. Tip: Start your adventure on the first floor for house-roasted coffee or organic tea.
1. New York, NY
Where to go: Strand Book Store
This “New York institution” has 18 miles of books, and truly something for everyone: $1 books in the sidewalk stacks wrapping around the corner outside, fantastical rare books, a great used graphic novel section and plentiful copies of luxe photography and art books keep a diverse crowd coming back for more. Tip: Clean, free bathrooms on the 2nd floor (now that’s a real New York find!)
*Cities are picked based on the number of check-ins to their most popular bookstore on Foursquare.