Is it cozy and carefully curated? Is it stocked with every text you could ever hope to read? Can you sip from a craft cocktail while you browse? What makes a bookstore ideal is in the eye of the beholder. Luckily, the world is brimming with unique booksellers—from stores that are big enough to take up several city blocks to shops that are literally a New York City apartment, collections housed beneath stained glass ceilings to ones with no ceilings at all—you’re sure to find at least one that fits your personal description of “perfection.”
Biggest: The Book Garden
WHERE: Tehran, Iran
Over the summer, the Book Garden opened its doors to unveil 700,000 square feet of book paradise. The sprawling complex not only features shelves upon shelves of titles to choose from but restaurants, a theater, and research halls. Plus, visitors can pick up one of 1,000 free books to peruse while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine from the Book Garden’s rooftop park.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
What’s better than combining books and booze? How about books and $2 off beer and wine during happy hour Monday through Friday? With its regular events (Literary Game Night, BookBar Book Club, and the introvert-friendly Silent Reading Happy Hour) BookBar is the perfect place anyone that loves their literary discussion paired with a glass of rosé.
Booziest, Part 2: Kramerbooks & Afterwords
WHERE: Washington D.C.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords has been serving up literature and nourishment in Dupont Circle since the 1970s. It’s the perfect place for a late night spent with a good book and a good drink. The cafe side of this combination bookstore-café is no beer-and-wine-only affair. The bar is full service and offers such literary libations as the Are You There God, It’s Me Margarita or A Cocktail of Two Cities.
Booziest Bookstore (Eccentric Gilded Age Heiresses Edition): Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar
WHERE: Asheville, NC
Are you more predisposed toward sipping bubbly than beer? Would you consider yourself winsome yet thoughtful? Are you a fancy 1920s heiress with a penchant for whimsy? Then look no further than the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar for all your book and sparkling wine-related needs.
Most Romantic: The Ripped Bodice
WHERE: Culver City, California
The Ripped Bodice is the only bookstore in the U.S. that specializes exclusively in the romance genre. Whether your perfect match is a shapeshifting were-dragon or a brooding Regency-era duke you’ll be sure to find something that’ll set your heart aflutter. With its carefully curated selection and playful décor, it’s impossible to step inside this ode to all things literary and romantic without, well, falling in love.
Most Colorful: Saraiva Bookstore
WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Remember that one rainy Sunday afternoon when you decided to re-order your bookshelf by color? Okay, now imagine that but this time it’s an actual store. The bright and airy Saraiva Bookstore is lined with ROYGBIV-tastic shelves, the books organized by the colors of their spines. The children’s section is also rounded out with a rainbow ramp, making a trip to this Rio de Janeiro bookstore a thoroughly colorful experience.
Outdoorsiest: Bart’s Books
WHERE: Ojai, California
“Booklover” can tend to be synonymous with “one who cowers indoors far from the reach of the wretched, burning sun.” But Bart’s Books will make a nature-loving believer out of even the staunchest of indoor kids. This bookstore’s wares are located outside with nothing overhead but sky and palm tree fronds.
Most Exclusive: Brazenhead Books
WHERE: New York City, New York
Everyone loves speakeasy. The mystery. The adventure of finding a hidden spot. The little thrill you get at feeling like you’re in on a secret. But in the case of Brazenhead Books, becoming a speakeasy wasn’t about finding a cutesy way to sell bespoke cocktails it was a method of survival. When the rent for his bookstore’s retail space became too expensive owner Michael Seidenberg moved his operation into his apartment. The by appointment space has become a legend for its Phoenix-like transformation born out of a love for literature and a creative method of skirting zoning laws.
Most Ironic Place to Buy ‘Murder on the Orient Express’: La Caverne aux Livres
WHERE: Auvers-sur-Oise, France
If you were to hear the description of La Caverne aux Livres and say, “That’s not a real place you’ve just told me about. That’s actually the setting for an upcoming Wes Anderson movie!”, you would be well within your rights to do so. But as far as we can tell, this bookstore, which is located in a suburb of Paris that Vincent Van Gogh once called home and occupies a former postal train station as well as several train cars, is a reality.
Most Likely to Have ‘Advanced Potion-Making’ and ‘Hogwarts, A History’ in Stock: Livraria Lello
WHERE: Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello has gained a certain degree of notoriety for reportedly inspiring frequent visitor and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Whatever the truth is, it’s impossible to look at the stunning structure and not feel transported to a world of magic. The combination of Neo-Gothic and Art Noveau stylings housed under a stained glass skylight is so stunning it might just make the Hogwarts Castle library look a little shabby by comparison.
Best Bookstore for Riding out the Post-Apocalypse: Underground Books
WHERE: Coober Pedy, Australia
The low-key dream of any bookworm is to have the world effectively end in order to have plenty of reading time on their hands. So if the world as we know it’s going to end, why not hunker down in Underground Books & Gallery. This subterranean book bunker is carved out of solid sandstone making it a great option for hiding from the radiations and making your way through your reading list. Plus, Coober Pedy is the opal capital of the world so when you do have to make the trek to Barter Town you’ll have something valuable to trade with.