Five out-of-the-ordinary bookstores

10 Feb 2010

Beware of snucking into these unique bookstores between appointments, you just might decide to take the day off to browse.


Boekie Woekie

Why it's special: The humble beginnings of Boekie Woekie involved six artists attempting to free some space in their living quarters by promoting their own books. Five years on, three of the original owners and one new partner made bold moves. By moving to a bigger place, the bookstore served as a small exhibition area to promote self-published authors. The store has also functioned as a travelling show within the past 15 years, setting up temporary branches in different cities around Europe.

The collection: The original concept was to honour the love for art shared by the founders and sell books by artists only. Books, audio-visual materials and prints by artists are available, with some materials having only single copies.

Operating hours: Open from 1200 to 1800 from Mondays to Sundays

Contact: Berenstraat 16, 1016 GH Amsterdam, tel 31 020 6390507


Oxford Bookstore

Why it's special: Oxford Bookstore is an iconic institution in India, with the first branch set up along Park Street, Kolkata. Established in 1920, the bookstore was a pioneer in book wholesaling in India. It is now the quintessential book chain for all your reading needs when you're in India. Spend the day in the store's Cha Bar, which provides a cosy environment to enjoy a book over an exotic cuppa. Events promoting literary, visual and performance arts often take place here.

The collection: Discover a great choice of books, especially on India and its history and geography. The chain is also well-stocked with new releases and bestsellers. Oxford Junior, started in 2006, is the adjoining store devoted to children's reading needs.

Operating hours: 1000 to 2100

Contact: 17 Park Street, Kolkata, tel 33 2229 7662


The Travel Bookshop

Why it's special: If you've watched the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill, you might feel right at home in The Travel Bookshop. This landmark in Notting Hill was the inspiration behind Hugh Grant's character's bookshop.

The collection: You'll find travelogues, literature, biographies and history books, arranged by country. If you're lucky, you might get your hands on rare, second-hand books. Two other independent bookshops in the area, Books for Cooks and The Garden Bookshop, stock specialist titles.

Operating hours: Open from 1000 to 1800 Mondays to Saturdays and 1200 to 1700 on Sundays

Contact: 13-15 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London, tel 44 20 7229 5260


Books Actually

Why it's special: The main attractions here are the installations in the store. At the entrance are stacks of vintage paper and a coin box. Each piece of paper has a typewritten passage from the owner's favourite poems and novels. You can drop them a little reward for the passage. Also, bring a roll of film to the shop to exchange at the "We Share Stories" exhibition. Develop the roll you swopped for and view life from someone else's lens.

The collection: Literature is the shop's specialty, with the shelves well stocked with classy fairy tales to Capote and Salinger. Level 3 of the shop houses its sister shop, Polymath and Crust, carrying non-fiction titles ranging from food to nature, geography to history. Its stationery line, Birds and Co, stocks handmade notebooks done with the old-fashioned bookbinding method. The publishing arm of BooksActually, Math Paper Press, sells novels personally edited by the owners.

Operating hours: Open from Monday to Saturday from 1100 to 2100

Contact: 86 Club Street, tel 65 6222 9195


Politics and Prose

Why it's special: Politics and Prose has become somewhat a tradition in Washington. Despite its moniker, do not expect shelves after shelves of political tomes. What you should look forward to, however, are weekly readings by authors. Viewers of C-SPAN will instantly recognise the bookstore where the readings are broadcasted from.

The collection: The store carries mainstream titles as well as some off-the-beaten path selections that major chains do not carry.

Operating hours: 0900 to 2200 from Monday to Saturday and 1000 to 2000 on Sunday

Contact: 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, tel 1 800 722 3790

Jarrel Tan

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