Step into the real-life versions of these fictional bookstores.
Fictional places are often more inviting than what we see in our everyday, mundane lives. Reading allows us to visit places we can only go to in our minds, which is probably why most of us find bookstores to be magical. Bookstores in fiction are all the more intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to step into Flourish and Blott’s to buy a book on magical creatures alongside Harry Potter and his friends in Hogwarts?
It’s a shame we can only imagine such places and not visit them in real life - or can we? Here are five real-life books stores similar to ones found in fiction (in no particular order). Stepping through their doors might just make their fictional counterparts step off the page.
The secretive Mr. Penumbra keeps his bookstore open 24/7, and his customers are strange enough to wander in at all hours looking for secret messages in the texts he sells. This bookstore's real life counterpart might not involve a secret society using the books to solve cryptic messages, (although, who really knows?), but there are 24 hour bookstores out there in the world. One of them is 1200 Bookshop in Guangzhou, China, which never closes. With a restaurant and couches, it's a cozy place to stay overnight and you can request to do so! You might be asked to share your experience in a midnight seminar.
2 Flourish and Blott’s
OK, so the magical bookstore selling required reading for Hogwarts’ students in the Harry Potter series isn’t real (as far as we know!). What is real is the inspiration for the store, which J.K. Rowling once said came from Livraria Lello in Portugal. The bookstore definitely has a magical feel to it. With majestic red staircases and beautiful bookshelves, whose to say there isn’t magic within its walls? (See the article Real Life Places that Inspired Harry Potter.)
3 Monsieur Labisse’s Bookshop
Monsieur Labisse’s bookshop must stay within the fictional train station in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but in real life, Barter Books is snugly set in a train statio in England. The book store is as magical a place as its fictional double, with miniature trains running along the shelves, poems written on banners everywhere, a children's room filled with toys for little ones to play while parents shop, open fires in winter, a buffet serving local foods, coffees and teas, and best of all a barter system still allowed as a form of payment. It’s said the wartime phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” was coined here, and it's easy to see how a place like this would have a calming effect on anyone. I highly recommend checking out their website, which tells plenty of interesting stories about how this shop evolved to what it is today.
4 The Bookshop on the Corner
In The Bookshop on the Corner, the main character buys a van, which she loads with books and sells as a traveling bookseller. In Portugal, as an effort to give tourists exposure to Portuguese authors, Tell a Story offers books for purchase from a traveling van. The traveling bookstore also sells post cards with pens available for tourists to write home and tell their stories about experiencing this unique country.
5 The Literary Apothecary
In The Little Paris Bookshop, the main character runs a bookstore on a barge, and in real life, there are at least two bookstores on boats. One is The Book Barge, a bookstore on an old barge. It's currently closed but it was run by Sarah Henshaw, a journalist and author of The Bookshop the Floated Away. Another is Words on the Water, also in London, which is set on a 1920’s Dutch barge, which used to travel, but now has it’s own permanent, snug spot in Regent’s Canal. If being in a boat makes you seasick, you can still enjoy a boat themed bookstore in Libreria Alta Acqua in Venis, Italy, which showcases its books in boats, bathtubs and other non-bookshelves. It's name translates to "Book Store of High Water," and it proclaims itself to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world - though, I contend that to those of us who love books, there's a unique beauty to every book store we visit.
Which bookstore have you visited that reminded you of a story you read? Any suggestions of bookshops to add?
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