5 Fictional Bookstores We Wish We Could Visit

Harry Potter in Diagon Alley

Ah, I love the smell of books in the morning. Or afternoon. Or evening. Whenever it is that you have the joy of entering your local bookseller’s and taking a big sniff. But the pleasure of bookstores doesn’t end with the aroma, or even the thrill of hijacking a ladder and Belle-ing it. (Note: They don’t like when you do this.) While it’s easy to lose yourself in a real bookstore for hours, one can’t help but dream about all the fun to be had in fictional bookstores. Here are a handful of shops we lust after. I bet they smell great:

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (from the book of the same title, by Robin Sloan)
You can’t beat the hours, even if the selection isn’t always exactly what you seek. The wonderfully, nerdishly complex world of Penumbra’s bookstore and its patrons at the Unbroken Spine semi-secret society offer a small slice of San Franciscan beauty. The people-watching opportunities are spectacular, as the code-cracking regulars manically stumble through the door. And people who take typography as seriously as these characters are good apples, as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t take a Google machine to know that.

Sempere and Sons (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)
In “The Tale of the Bookish Babysitter,” a classic episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?,  an illiterate brat is given, by his mysterious Wiccan-y baby sitter, books that actually come to life right there in his suburban home. Fog envelops the hallway. Fictional characters start clogging up the spare rooms. That is what it would be like to enter Zafón’s postwar Barcelona. It’s a visceral experience, which is why the central antiquarian bookshop is such a pleasure to imagine.

Señor Sempere, Daniel, and Fermin always seem to be able to find the exact book that will not only win your love, but probably also send you on a mysterious, life-changing path of discovery. And if they don’t have it in stock, they can always show you the winding, sprawling, absolutely brimming Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where you’ll pass out from delirium.

Flourish and Blotts (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
From the most important orphan in the world’s first visit: “They bought Harry’s school books in a shop called Flourish and Blotts, where the shelves were stacked to the ceiling with books as large as paving stones bound in leather; books the size of postage stamps in covers of silk; books full of peculiar symbols and a few books with nothing in them at all.”

Big ones. Small ones. Some as big as your head. Sounds like a hoot, not to mention the important author signings.  But two quick tips: Never, ever step within 10 feet of The Monster Book of Monsters, and always check your cauldrons when the Malfoys are around—their ‘presents’ suck.

The Good Novel (A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cosse)
Why bother to make the case, when the booksellers in this Parisian delight can do it themselves so wonderfully? “We have no time to waste on insignificant books, hollow books, books that are there to please…We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer’s block, the author’s panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure that he has taken.” A bookstore that prizes its clientele so highly almost makes you overlook those nasty, mysterious, and violent assaults…

Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley
It’s not a law that bookshops have to be stationary. Parnassus, “a caravan of culture,” is a horse-drawn traveling bookstore, which is exactly the transportation that should be used for every road trip. Crossroads sequel, Britney?

 What’s your favorite fictional bookstore?

  • Kevin Kennedy

    Well, there’s always The Haunted Bookshop, successor to Parnassus on Wheels.

  • Regina Corley

    I’m so glad you mentioned the Cemetery of Forgotten Books!! I SO want to go there!!

  • Gwen Goble-Bartzen

    Barron’s Books and Baubles.

  • crunchycon

    Marks & Co. at 84 Charing Cross Road.

  • Gary Wyatt

    Needful Things Stephen King

  • Nicolas Tredell

    The Moonlight Quill in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “O Russet Witch!” (Tales of the Jazz Age)

  • jennifer bersaglia

    yes….all of the above, please.

  • Theresa Chedoen

    Jocelyn and Felicity’s bookshop on the cathedral square in The City of Bells, by Elizabeth Goudge. Highly recommended.

  • Daniela Ivanova

    Where’s the Unseen University library of ANkh Morpork from the Discworld series?

Follow BNReads