Sunday, Sep 25, 2022
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How I Browse Bookstores Across The World Via Bookstagram

Bookstagram is a niche corner of Instagram that is perfect for book lovers. Using the hashtag #bookstagram, you'll find millions of book related info. But for some, bookstagram is enabling glimpses of the quaintest bookstores, libraries, and book cafes around the world - from the comfort of their homes

A bookstore in a van counter in Batumi, Georgia
A bookstore in a van counter in Batumi, Georgia OMfotovideocontent / Shutterstock

With restrictions on travel still around, bibliophiles have been missing hanging out and browsing at bookstores, libraries, and their favourite book cafes. But an online book-loving community have been scrolling away furiously, to get their fill of such spaces across the world.   

I am talking about bookstagram, a community of bibliophiles and book appreciators who have assembled together to share the delight that books are, with people all over the world. From black and white images of ‘walking libraries’ to all-new ‘book trucks’, bookstagram has created a virtual world where you can enjoy seeing bookstores, walk through the shelves of quirky libraries, get information about interesting indie book shops, book festivals and budget book sales as well. Here are a few bookstores around the world that I love looking at.

A Bookstore on Wheels in Japan

A faded bluish-grey hued book truck has been spotted in Japan moving around more than 300 times within the last five years. The only mobile bookstore in Japan, this book truck (owned and driven by one Shuhei Mita) is a Suzuki van that sells books every weekend in the bazaars of Japan. The books are neatly stacked inside the truck, in wooden crates and temporary shelves. And stands are arranged outside the truck for a better display.

Venetian Flea Library

Another quirky and amusing display of books was spotted on Bookstagram when people shared their experiences after visiting the Libreria Acqua Alta Di Frizzo Luigi in Venice. This blend of a flea market and a library (when one steps inside) has a complex mix of books, old maps and magazines. The walls form a corner and an array of colourful and tattered spines sit against it at Libreria Acqua. Also called the ‘Bookstore of High Water’, this is the heart of Venice for someone who is in love with books. The charming photographs of this flea library transport you visually to another land with books stored in unusual ways - some in a gondola, a few in bathtubs, waterproof bins and several in over-stuffed rooms. 

Ojai’s Open Air Reading Realm 

The pictures of Ojai’s Open Air Bart’s Bookstore lend an irresistible sense of comfort. While California and the sun go hand in hand, Bart’s in the small town of Ojai, is the perfect naturalistic setting for enjoying a ‘beach read’. So while readers around the world cannot currently visit this open-air bookstore, they can very well relish its concept of tuning-in with nature and enjoy outdoor reading on their own. Bart’s bookstore renders a sense of a ‘literary retreat’ with sunlight that filters in through shadows formed by palm trees on new, old and used books stacked on wooden shelves (with an occasional throw of a bush or a lush green creeper plant). 

Bookish Bar in Sydney

While books and coffee is quite the norm, Sappho Bookstore in Sydney has eclectically paired up books with wine. Sappho’s is a book, café and wine bar where the dimly lit exterior with wall graffiti clashes with the interior college-library look. ‘Drunk on fiction or drunk on whiskey’ is an actual choice here. A traditional alphabetical book arrangement is visible in the surreal photographs of Sappho, shared by bibliophiles.

Little Free Library’s Book Nests

Another eye-catching element in the world of books has been the Little Free Library’s initiative of installing miniature wooden booths facilitating public book exchanges in several neighbourhoods. With millions of book being exchanged under this initiative, more than 91 countries have these tiny booths at street corners and turns with surprise reads waiting to be picked up in exchange for another being placed in its spot. From Ontario, Texas, New Hampshire, to New Mexico, Chicago and several other places, Bookstagram is abundant in pretty pictures of adorable little free library booths in interesting shapes stacked with books that are in a perfectly good state. 

LA’s Den of Rare Books and Collectibles 

With a dusty black staircase, marked with arrows and genre names directing you towards different sections, The Last Bookstore in LA, placed in an abandoned bank, is a typically Instagrammable location. With a number of photographs, of people posing in the splendid book arc at this book den, The Last Bookstore defines the phrase ‘bookish universe’. With an art studio and a special ‘horror vault’ this place is thrilling to look at.

Of Budget Book Sales and an Actual Store Experience

Bookstagram has also been inspiring readers to share information about thrift book deals and budget book sales, with fellow bookstagrammers. All of this has actually drawn readers to visit more bookstores than simply ordering books online. Semi-annual and occasional ‘$1-3 per book’ sales have been a boon to readers who have discovered them owing to the stories of fellow book enthusiasts on the gram. While we all have largely been restricted from trvaelling out for our personal safety, it's Bookstagram that has brought not just book reviews, new reading genres, and debut authors but also the virtual experience of witnessing bookstores and book cafes which we would otherwise not be able to visit. “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet” - Jhumpa Lahiri’s quote from The Namesake sums up the feeling of travelling through a reader’s lens. Because you might not have actually been to the artistic escapade of Lombardy in Italy, or experienced 1800’s old London and Transylvania, but through books and memoirs you have lived more than just your life. And with Bookstagram you have transformed that visualisation into an image.

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