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. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?