Books stacked on armchairs and giggles in corners, these are a few of my…wait a second. Kirtles is the Sound of Music fan, he should be the one doing SOM references.
Clearly Greenwoods’ would have won this honour, I worked there every day and it was still my favourite place to be. But, with a little weepy sniff, I’ll try to move on and talk about other great bookstores. We still have Audreys here in Edmonton, and I’m very glad of it.
A top favourite is Woozles in Halifax, NS. For a time, I worked with a lovely woman named Becca who had worked at Woozles before she moved to Edmonton. Becca had clearly learned a thing or two about how to be awesome in the kids’ books business from the Woozles family. Having heard so much about it, I made sure it was the first stop I made when I went to Halifax. I told my partner I’d only spend 2 hours there and, in actuality, I only spent 3 hours. That’s pretty good for me. It lived up to its reputation, with a great selection of books and toys, an awesome staff, and a community-minded approach that I know takes a staggering amount of effort for very little recognition. They hold city wide reading competitions with the schools, they do book clubs, they do bookfairs, they even do home delivery for crying out loud. There were kids’ climbing onto my partner’s lap while she was sitting in the big comfy armchair basically saying “hey, you sit here, you’re expected to start reading me a book,” and I got to have an awesome chat with Lisa, the manager, about recommended east coast authors (Of her recommendations, I bought The Glory Wind by Valerie Sherrard and Sinking Deeper by Steve Vernon, both of which were awesome).
Happy Harbor Comics, here in Edmonton, rates on my Top Bookstores for the same reasons as Woozles. This is an incredible comic book store with amazing selection and a great section for kids and they are doing EVERYTHING they can to contribute to our community. They host game nights and movie nights and comic jams, they have an artist in residence, they have a scholarship fund to send students to Guru Digital Arts College, and they contribute to many artistic and non-artistic charities in the city, giving of their time, money and space. And did I mention they also travel out to schools to talk to students and teachers alike about awesome graphic novels and comics? They are an inspirational business in this city and we’re dang lucky to have them. Plus, comics. Comics good.
My “Nostalgia Favourite” has got to be The Book Shop in Penticton, BC. It’s a used bookstore that takes up around half a city block. Walking into that place as a kid (and we made sure to get a few visits in every year) was just magical. Books everywhere! No subject left uncovered, no corner not stacked with books. Such was the obsession with books in my house that whenever Kelowna held its library sales, my mother and the woman who ran The Bookshop would be the first ones there, fighting over the books. That’s how they got to know each other. It was, and will hopefully forever be, my happy place. When in the Okanagan, it’s the perfect place to escape when the hot sun gets to be too much.
In Edmonton, we are lucky to have a plethora of great used bookstores to choose from and Old Strathcona Books is my first pick. Old Strathcona leads the pack because no one in the city can beat its great selection of fiction. Plus, they are organized while still feeling quaint. I’m actually not a huge fan of used bookstores that are an organizational disaster, I know that seems to be a trend in that business but I can’t help my slight anal rententiveness when it comes to books.
This ended up being a far longer post than I expected. What are some of your favourite Canadian and international bookstores? I’d love to know as I travel a bit and am always looking for more bookstores.
Canadian notable mentions:
Mosaic Books – Kelowna, BC
Ted’s Paperbacks – Kelowna, BC (used)
The Bookery – St. Johns, NFL
White Dwarf – Vancouver, BC (fantasy)
Kidsbooks – Vancouver, BC
The Travel Bug – Vancouver, BC (travel books and accoutrements)
I’m looking to add to this list in August when I go to Portland. There are so many all over the world (especially New York), but these are a couple of good ones you may not have been familiar with:
Bookaburra – Singapore. Seriously one the best kids’ bookstores I’ve been in.
Kew Bookshop – London, UK. Small shop that must have the best buyer in the history of the world because every book in there is a winner. Also, it’s close to the airport and in a lovely area, so if you have a layover, it’s the perfect place for a little stop into London.