Thursday, December 06, 2007


I've explained my love of libraries before, but truth be told I may like bookstores even more. I can't explain it any more than to say that while a library is fairly static, a bookstore is dynamic. Books flow through a bookstore, while they are archived in a library. I'm fond of both, but since I want to possess the books for myself, a bookshop might have a slight edge for me.

Having said that, there are good bookstores and bad. Having worked at a Barnes & Noble, I can tell you that many of them are not what I would call good bookstores. Books-a-Million is an awful, awful place. But some Borders are pretty good.

Independents are a gamble. It's where you will find the best bookstores, and the worst. The bad would be places like the used bookstore off of the main drag in Blacksburg, which had little beyond water-stained pulp novels. The good are places like Northshire Books, the local Olsson's chain around DC, and once upon a time, the bookstore my mom helped found, Deerleap Books.

The heart of a good bookstore is the selection. It doesn't have to be broad - you don't always want a warehouse. Just books chosen carefully, recommendations from an intelligent and well-read staff. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you have a nice place to put it all.

Few bookstores approach the aesthetic beauty of the great libraries like the British or the Library of Congress. But to finally come to a point, I just read about one that does. It is in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and is housed in converted church.

(It won an interior design award. To see more photos and information, read here and here)

It doesn't look cozy, but I think it would be a marvelous place to spend a few hours and pick up a few volumes. But only real classics of capital "L" Literature or great works of non-fiction. Buying the latest Oprah book here would seem wrong, somehow.

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