World’s best bookstores, etc.

January 14, 2008
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One of the most pleasant hours of my weekend was spent chatting with staff and customers at Big Hat Books, the Broad Ripple independent that gave the city a low-key cultural infusion when it opened a few years ago. (Visit it by clicking here.)

While the handsome store is modest in size, its importance as a neighborhood focal point got me thinking about the amount of time I’ve spent in bookstores—from bargain hunting at Half-Price Books to speaking with readers groups at Borders to blissfully killing between-appointment times in bookstores in New York, L.A. and elsewhere.

Occasionally, I even buy a book or two.

What I want to share here, though, is a link from London’s Guardian Unlimited celebrating its picks of the world’s best bookstores. It’s worth a look, not just for bookstore lovers like me, but also for those architecturally interested in space conversion. You can find it here.

Speaking of books, I’m just finishing Dave Marsh’s slim book “The Beatles' Second Album.” It’s part of Rodale Books’ Rock of Ages series in which each volume offers a highly personal critical essay on a specific album. Next I’m looking forward to reading Pete Fornatale’s take on Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bookends.” You can them here.

Feel free to share your thoughts here on your favorite bookstores, the value of such places, or recent books worth buying.
  • I have found a charming little bookstore, called Bookmamas, located near downtown in Irvington, IN conveniently located accross from Lazy Dazes Coffee Shop. It has a great atmosphere with lovely wood floors and bookshelves. The staff are friendly and helpful. Plus they are open to people with creative ideas. It is a great place to browse for a book, read a book, or ask them to order a hard to find book for you.
  • You should check out Bookmammas located in Irvington located at 9 S. Johnson Ave across the street from Lazy Daze coffee shop. It has lectures, book signings, 27,000 used books, new books about Indiana and by Indiana authors. There are also gift related items and a name the bookworm contest for children 11 and under. The hours are 11AM to 5PM Fridays and 10AM to 5PM Saturdays.
  • Borders is my home away from home site, particularly the store at River Run at Keystone. I visited the new Borders in Castleton Square several times, but the seating area faces the sun, which comes through the large windows and pretty much takes away any morning visits. Borders is home to me. A table, an outlet for my laptop, coffee, munchies, the whole world at my fingertips, and friends to share writing, poetry, and gadfly conversation. Doesn't get better than that.
  • I love bookstores! I can get lost in them for hours! One of my favorite places to get books though is the Library Service Center's book sale. I've been going for several years and have built a pretty decent library. I used to go to the $2 bag day, but my patience is too thin for that anymore. The crowds can be annoying, but it does warm my heart to know that so many people are still interested in books. My bookshelves are filled with great books and I've always got something to read! I just finished the His Dark Materials trilogy (the Golden Compass), and I'm now reading a biography of Bette Davis. When I'm in the market for a new book, I hit the Borders downtown, since it's close to work.
  • I could spend hours, and sometimes do on a lazy Saturday, wandering around bookstores. I'm a fan of Half Price Books and Borders, and also purchase quite a few books online at Amazon or Better World Books. A trip to Big Hat Books is now on my list, thanks Lou! I think much of a bookstore's value lies in the diversity of offerings. Pick a topic and you're likely to find dozens of books to choose. To Mike's point, bookstores have become destinations, and it doesn't get better than that!
  • The downtown Borders at Meridian and Washington is a great example of fitting a format into an existing building. Most of the fiction, magazines and cafe (where you pick up coffee orders through the an old teller's window) are on the street level. More books, CDs and DVDs are on the second floor where you can sit along the window ledges looking down on Meridian. The brass balcony railings have got to be unique among Indy bookstores. The building is now owned by Barnes & Thornburg law firm and was the city's tallest when constructed in 1888. Most long-time residents remember it as the headquarters of Merchants Bank.
  • We love them all. Borders downtown is so close; Barnes and Noble everywhere; half price books... It is just a matter of paying for the books. The new library with its coffee shop is going to be great for me when I have an hour or two to kill before a meeting. But now we have to go to Bookmammas after these great recommendations and check it out.
  • Powell's in Portland is absolutely amazing. They list it as the largest in the world, and I wouldn't doubt it. I could spend days there.

    Other great ones:
    The Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio. Lots of nooks in crannies and different background music in many sections.

    City Lights in San Francisco. The birth of the Beats, and still cool today.

    The Strand in NYC. The last leftover from the book district is massive and cool.

    Myopic Books in Chicago. Pretty much keeping with the nook and cranny theme.

    There's tons more that are really good. Seeking out bookstores is a big hobby of mine if you couldn't tell. I found a cool mostly-English-language store in Istanbul, and they even have a book bazaar near the Grand Bazaar.

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  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.