November 5, 2012
SLIDESHOW: Bookstore secrets
by Claire Kelley
Bookshops are magical places. Particularly ones with secrets.
This slideshow reveals a few of my favorites, while still keeping some of the mystery alive.
Some of these bookstores might let you stay and sleep overnight. One has a bookshelf that opens into a bed. Another has a wall of personal letters, notes, and photographs found in used books. Almost all of these bookstores have clandestine readings. And one of them exists in a secret location.
Photo by Will Brady
SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY in Paris, France
This bookstore has a secret double status as the Tumbleweed Hotel.
This is the creed of the Hotel Tumbleweed.
Give what you can, take what you need.
Since 1950 when George Whitman opened shop, he allowed writers, vagabonds, students, and travelers to stay overnight in exchange for shelving books and writing a one page biography. Now Sylvia Whitman runs the bookstore, and if you hang around long enough you might see the secret basement, a famous author, or the mysterious cat Kitty who thinks she is a dog. The magical feeling upon entering this bookshop might be enhanced due to the fact that it is located very close to the ancient Kilometer Zero marker in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
ATLANTIS BOOKS in Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece
It feels like you have to travel to the end of the earth to get to this bookshop, but it’s well worth the trip. Atlantis Books can magically morph into many things: a film festival, a feast with strangers, an art collective, a musical performance, a dance party, a cooking lesson. It is also the home of a publishing venture, Paravion Press. Build and designed by nook and others, this shop is a work of art with a secret passageway that leads to the terrace and a secret door that leads to the kitchen. There are also hidden desks and beds among the shelves. The hidden bed can be seen in this picture above Craig Walzer, one of the founders of the shop.
UNNAMEABLE BOOKS in Brooklyn
Adam Tobin, the owner of Unnameable Books tells me that the bookstore’s events are sometimes secrets because they are so poorly publicized. If you come to the bookstore at the right time, you might be welcomed into the secret basement where the readings take place. There is also a wall where you can read from a a collection of other people’s secrets—letters, personal notes, and lists—that they have left behind in books.
BRAZENHEAD BOOKS in New York City
Although this bookstore has been written about in the New York Times, The Believer, The New Yorker and is even the subject of a video, the exact location of Brazenhead Books is a secret. Even once you find your way inside, there is a secret back room for lounging. With incredibly rare and well-curated books, this place is about as mysterious as you can get. Bring your own whiskey.
THE OWL BOOKSTORE in Antalya, Turkey
Sometimes just the suggestion or legend of a particularly lovely bookstore makes it all the more enticing. My friend Terry told me about the Owl Bookstore in Antalya, and I’ve been wanting to go learn its secrets ever since. All I know is that the owner, Kemal Özkurt, is an eccentric man in his 50s who keeps irregular hours. But the place looks beautiful.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.