Best bookstore ever?
Bookstores come in basically two varieties. You have your large, well-lit chain bookstores with broad shelves and fancy displays of the new soon-to-be bestsellers. They smell like fresh ink and are filled with employees who will look your request up on the computer because they’ve never heard of that author. These are your Barnes and Noble’s, your Borderses.
On the other hand, you have your small, dusty, independent/used bookstores, with books stacked to the ceiling on all sides, and no room for special displays. These stores smell like musty, yellowed pages and their employees will not only recognize your requested author immediately, but suggest somebody else who is actually much better, really (they will then quietly judge you for your inferior taste). Exemplars of this variety include City Lights, and Quimby’s Books, but the best ones sometimes don’t even have a name.
I think most readers tend to have a strong predilection for one or the other variety of bookstore, but I actually like them both pretty well. To me, the two are each enjoyable in their own way, but not directly comparable across categories. Today, in Sao Paulo, I wandered into what may be my favorite bookstore of the large-and-corporate type.
As you can see from the photo above, the Livaria Cultura (“Cultural Bookstore”?) is huge, with 3 or 4 different levels, and wide, sloping ramps connecting them. The selection of books was quite broad, although they didn’t have what I was looking for in English. They seemed to stock books by genre, with little regard to the language of publication. Portuguese, English, Spanish, and even a few French and Italian titles all sat next to each other on the shelves, evidence of the patronage of a well-educated segment of the Brazilian population.
There was a nice little starbucks-inspired coffee bar, and the beanbag chairs and staggered risers were super comfy as well. Oh, and there’s that pretty awesome articulated dragon, too.