Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Books Actually

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
~ Jane Austen, from Pride and Prejudice.
On the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, I wanted to share something of bookstores and libraries - I recently stumbled across some of these collections online so they are not places I have visited, but isn't the internet brilliant for couchsurfing? In Paris, there is a bookstore called Shakespeare & Company, which looks delicious...
To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare ~ Kenko Yoshida wrote that some time between 1283 and 1350. What would he have thought of a movie palace being converted into a reading room? This is the Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which uses theatre boxes for reading rooms...
A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end.  You live several lives while reading it. William Styron, who wrote that in 1958, would perhaps have approved of the Poplar Kids' Republic in Beijing, China - cosy nooks for naps everywhere!
I quite like this quote: "Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you re-read ~ François Mauriac.
There is a bookstore in Mexico which has a trail of greenery wrought around the books, and a tiny one I love in Singapore, which is endlessly quirky, called Books Actually. Bookstores are becoming magical places, but some libraries are really extraordinary, like this ornate cathedral to books in Coimbra, Portugal...
or the University of Salamanca library in Spain, which is brilliantly colourful...
Of course, the college libraries in Cambridge hold a special place, like Wren's and Queen's...
but my favourite bookstore/library was tiny, cramped, dark, dusty, and very likely long destroyed. We used it during our childhood trips to Mahableshwar, a favourite colonial hill station. The librarian was terrifying and extremely strict. The books and comics were crammed together in cupboards, but the ecstatic illusion of feeling one could choose anything and take home plenty, has lasted all these years. I wonder if my brothers remember... I shall have to ask! Meanwhile, am off to hospital tomorrow for a very long day of infusions - and the kindle shall serve as my magical portable library.
Images from flavorwire via and via 


  1. I have been to that book store in is a gift to the human soul. Even if you do not read but sit quietly can feel the presence of writers and readers from decades before us. blessings, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  2. The first one is my favorite, I could spend weeks in there :-)

  3. Yes, Shakespeare & Co. And all of these, devoted to books.

    How about you and I start a reading room somewhere? We'd know just what to do, in just the right spots.

  4. Oh how glorious! I especially love the first one, small and cozy, with that inviting chair....I always wanted to be a bookstore proprietor. Sigh. Glad you have a Kindle for your treatment sister gave me one and I am going to the library today to take a class that will teach me how to use it. My sister is tired of me asking her! hee hee.

  5. Hope you are back home, tucked into bed, nice and cozy after your treatment day, kiddo. Rest, sleep, read........all those good things!

  6. So funny you should post about libraries! yesterday I wandered around old Bei Tou in Taipei touring a most extraordinary library. It gave me such a feeling as if being in a church. Hushed silence and light footsteps across creaky wooden floors.

    I had just told my companion that I was such a financial disaster, so poor with math and economics. We sat on a bench amid the rows of bookcases and lo and behold I notice smack dab in front of me was the entire "finance" section. YEEK

  7. These are stunning libraries, though I've never met a single one I didn't like! My personal favourite is the old library in Trinity College, Dublin, that holds the Book of Kells.

    So glad Sherry Blue Sky forwarded me your link...

  8. Haha when I was 12 my top three career choices were: author, librarian, and book store owner ;)