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Inside the World’s Most Beloved Independent Bookstores

In the age of Amazon and e-books, these bookstores have faced more challenges than ever, but many have been able to persevere and remain treasured parts of their communities.

Architectural Digest

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

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Is there any more pleasant way to while away an afternoon than browsing the shelves of an independent bookstore and adding a few new finds to your to-be-read pile? Throughout history, bookstores have been more than places to pick up the latest title: They are places to meet, to learn, and to plan social revolutions. In the age of Amazon and e-books, independent bookstores have faced more challenges than ever, but many have been able to persevere and remain treasured parts of their communities. If you’ve missed the aisles of your favorite indie vendors over the past year, a new book can take you back to those beloved stacks. In Bookstores: A Celebration of Independent Booksellers (Prestel, $45), photographer Horst A. Friedrichs and writer Stuart Husbands showcase an array of shops and the passionate owners who operate them.

The volume takes you on a tour of some of the world’s most beloved outlets, from classic booksellers that have served generations of readers to young upstarts bringing a fresh take to the industry. Read on to go inside the most intriguing bookstores around the globe and start planning your visit.


All images are courtesy of Horst A. Friedrichs

Baldwin’s Book Barn (West Chester, Pennslyvania)

Set in a dairy barn built in 1822, Baldwin’s Book Barn has been open in West Chester, Pennsylvania since 1946. The original owners, William and Lilla Baldwin, began selling books in 1934 and had a book wagon that would go from town to town. Now operated by Fred Dannaway, the store specializes in used, rare, and antiquarian books, which are spread across the five floors.

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Daunt Books (London)

Readers will find books arranged by country in a cathedral-like space at the Marylebone location of Daunt Books, which James Daunt opened in 1980. The Edwardian building dates back to 1910 and is the oldest purpose-built bookshop still in use in the United Kingdom. 


Pro qm (Berlin)

In 1999, Katja Reichard, Jesko Fezer, and Axel J. Wieder launched Pro qm, a bookshop and laboratory for ideas on everything from urbanism to climate change. The white space is punctuated by shocking pink ladders and colorful tomes on design, architecture, and pop culture.

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Haywood Hill (London)

Haywood Hill, located in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, opened in 1936 in a Georgian townhouse, selling books alongside art and other curiosities. The shop at 10 Curzon Street has long been a London literary hub, attracting authors and high society alike. Writer Nancy Mitford worked at Heywood Hill during World War II, helping to establish the engaging tone of the shop.


Livraria Lello (Porto, Portugal)

Stepping into Porto, Portugal’s Livraria Lello is like entering a fantasy world. (Rumor has it that the bookstore inspired the interior of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.) The neo-Gothic building features wood carvings, a stained-glass skylight, and a majestic staircase. The shop opened in 1906 and included a publishing house, which remains today.


Stories! (Hamburg, Germany)

Owner Annerose Beurich worked in the book trade for years before opening her Hamburg bookstore Stories! in 2008. Books are displayed in white frames, setting them apart from rows of spines on shelves. The airy and modern store includes a reading room with a coffee bar for events or for perusing new purchases with a cup of joe.


The Strand (New York City)

The Strand has been a New York institution since 1927. Generations of readers have wandered the 18 miles of books, from the rare book room to the dollar carts that line the exterior of the store. Now run by the founder’s granddaughter Nancy Bass Wyden, the store has over 2.5 million books and hosts 400 talks and signings each year.


William Stout Architectural Books (San Francisco)

For design and architecture fans, William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco is a must-visit. Former architect Stout opened the store out of his apartment in 1974 and now the shop occupies a corner location in the Jackson Square neighborhood. Offering over 70,000 titles, including international and out-of-print volumes, the store also has its own publishing company, which releases several titles each year.


Bücherborgen (Berlin)

Set below the railroad tracks on Savignyplatz, Bücherborgen specializes in art, design, architecture, and fashion books. Ruthild and Wanda Spangenberg opened the store, which was a favorite of Karl Lagerfeld, in 1980, and renovated and expanded it in 2006. The arched ceilings are crisscrossed with neon lights, creating the feel of grain vaults in a cathedral.


Librairie Auguste Blaizot (Paris)

The family-owned Librairie Auguste Blaizot moved to its current location on Paris’s Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré in 1910. Now run by fifth-generation bookseller Paul Blaizot, the shop specializes in bookbinding, illustrated books, and first editions. The stunning setting, featuring floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with leather-bound books, transports visitors to another time.

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This post originally appeared on Architectural Digest and was published May 5, 2021. This article is republished here with permission.

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