Book Nerd: Hatchard’s, Piccadilly

The first to visit, the last to post… for a little while, at least.

These are really worth a read as you wander! Hatchard's, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.
These are really worth a read as you wander! Hatchard’s, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.

If you guys have been tracking, I announced this Book nerd adventure back in January and since then I’ve definitely been in and out of a lot of book sellers—and I’ve loved it. But in my haste to get everything else done for my travels and keeping you up to date on other things, I skipped the first store that actually got me started on this –now global—adventure: Hatchard’s in Piccadilly.

The Piccadilly store front’s claim to fame comes down to being the UK’s oldest book shop (established in 1797), but wandering inside, you would never know that this space was anywhere near that age.

Growing up in LA, the only bookstores I had really available to run around in were chains like Borders and Barnes & Nobles that were attached to malls—and even those numbers are dwindling. These major retailers housed their wares in open plan spaces where the only divisions of the room—except for floors—were the book cases breaking things down by genre. These were not interesting architectural places or mazes to lose yourself in, in a nod to Alice wandering the expanding world of wonderland; they were simply spaces you went to get the books you needed before continuing along with your shopping needs.

So, while I am now quite used to the world of creative book spaces and aesthetic draw of the booksellers I’ve looked at so far, walking into Hatchard’s was my first real experience of a bookstore as more than a building to buy a book or two.

I’d chosen this shop as my first for a few reasons: I was in need of books to read on the trains and such before heading out to France for reading week; it’s the oldest bookshop in the UK (!); I knew the general area and it wasn’t too far from where I live; and, finally, I had a class assignment where I had to go and observe a space and the way people interacted with it—a bookstore seemed like just the place to get everything I needed in one go.

Like I said, this was my first trip, so (after a few minutes of searching for the shop and getting turned around in the little streets surrounding it on the way) when I walked in and began to wander, I was pretty much floored.

A glimps of the lovely little details. Hatchard's, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.
A glimpse at the lovely little details. Hatchard’s, Piccadilly, London. January 2015.

This store is pretty much the opposite of open planned. Rather, each of the 5 floors (3 up from the ground floor and one below) is made up of rooms and passageways for customers to wander through.

And, boy, did I wander.

I found myself loving the feel of this store with its great central staircase and the quality it held, less like a maze (like Shakespeare and Co in Paris or the mammoth which is the Strand in New York) andmore like a labyrinth, where each room falls into a path which has a clear pattern to wander through.

It’s been a while since I visited the shop so you’ll have to excuse some of my lack of details, but one thing still stands out to me: there were a few areas that had chairs and even a couch where shoppers had set themselves up to work. Unlike most establishments where people congregate, this wasn’t a café setting one would see in any other bookshop. Rather these were small niches throughout the store where people were working on various project, none of which had anything to do with being in a bookshop. Again, coming from the dwindling market of Los Angeles, this was a completely foreign sight to behold.

But to wrap this up: Hatchard’s is a great space with a lovely and large range of books as well as an easy air which makes you understand wanting to sit down and stay for a while. Although—as my teacher felt compelled to remind—this is not a discount bookstore and, for where it’s located, you can definitely see why keeping the aesthetics at top marks would be so important.

Still, if you are in the area, this is a stop I’d recommend to you fellow bookies, there is an atmosphere, books, and some history in these walls—what else do you need?

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. As I said, this’ll be the last book nerd post for a little while, but we’re not closing the book on this chapter forever. So, next week we’ll get back to other travel stuff. But for now: Love you, awesome book nerds.

Book Nerd: Hatchard’s, Piccadilly

Book Nerd: McNally Jackson Bookstore

My last stop in New York.

A writing desk... McNally Jakcson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015.
A writing desk… McNally Jakcson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015.

The McNally Jackson bookstore is probably one of the most interesting set ups I’ve seen and, I for one, have fallen in love with the store.

While it may not have the volume of a book catacomb seen at the The Strand, this small independent really stands out as a place to explore and get a little lost in the world of literature—in some ways literally. On the top floor, most of the store’s collection is organized by country of the origin rather than by subject and author—a truly unique notion. (There’s a reason other bookshop listings mention asking for help if looking for a specific title!)

This set up speaks to the kind of books that can be found housed on the shelves and tables around the store as well. Most titles and covers I hadn’t seen in my explorations elsewhere and each book I picked up covered a new range of topics which seemed to come back to the independent identity.

This isn’t to say that the store ignores popular books and publications, but by walking into McNally Jackson’s and wandering through the titles, you get access to much more of the world and all its great variety.

Books everywhere! McNally Jackson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015
Books everywhere! McNally Jackson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015

The top floor also houses the café with the fantastic book ceiling décor, as well as other great aesthetic features which gives the place an easy yet quirky energy that will make me want to drop back in.

The lower level houses the sections that are more common in every bookstore—young adult, poetry, fiction, ect—but even here there is an interesting twist to your browsing. This floor seemed set up to effortlessly move you from genre to genre; moving from mystery and thriller to science fiction and political writings to historic works to mythology, winding you throughout the level without you really having to wonder how any one piece fit. It was unlike any set up I’ve seen in pretty much any of my previous wanderings.

McNally Jackson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015.
McNally Jackson, Manhattan, New York. April 2015.

This shop is more than just your run of the mill bookshop and café duos, however. It’s also a working book press totaling 50,004 prints as of my visit. The website has more information of this aspect of the store if anyone is interested, but for simple browsers it’s one more interesting quirk of this truly remarkable shop, thriving in Manhattan.

One thing I will mention, however. If you want to visit—like this is a must on your list (which I completely understand)—don’t leave this to your last day. This was actually our second trip to the store front because the first time we went the store was closed for the day. I’m not sure why this was the case but if you are worried—as with all things—you can always call the store before heading down.

Anyway, if you are interested in exploring titles that you’d otherwise never see, by authors from around the world, talking about topics that others aren’t writing about, and from perspectives as unique as you’ll ever see—this is the shop you should definitely not miss out on.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Book Nerd: McNally Jackson Bookstore

Book Nerd: The Strand, NYC.

A different kind of book store.

A tiny glimpse. The Strand bookstore, New York City. March 2015.
A tiny glimpse. The Strand bookstore, New York City. March 2015.

If you end up in New York City, there really isn’t a shortage of sights to see and things to do. But as a book nerd, you are also spoiled for choice when it comes to really interesting bookshops to check out (and there are tons of lists to check out for ideas).

When it comes to beauty (at least form the outside), the Strand won’t stick out much, but if you have an afternoon to wander the stacks, you won’t be disappointed.

Upon walking in, the atmosphere makes me feel almost as if I’m walking into a book version of Ollivanders—a magical place where you could wander for hours waiting for the right book to find you. However, I also felt a bit like Belle walking into the Beast’s library—I could wander here forever and never run out of new worlds to explore.

What makes the Strand really unique is that it’s more than just a book store for the new, but a place you can go to buy or give used books a chance to be discovered and turned into someone else’s favorites through the Book exchange on the first floor; this supplies the cheap and used book carts that surround the store on the outside.

The floor map. Strand Bookstore, New York City. March, 2015.
The floor map. Strand Bookstore, New York City. March, 2015.

If you are looking to get in and out of a store with exactly what you want quickly, efficiently, and without much fuss, this is probably not the store for you. This isn’t to say you couldn’t manage the task, but you’d probably have to go directly to one of the help stations and have them find and retrieve the book for you. Why?

The stacks of the Strand are so tall and close, at times it was hard to see what books lied along the very top shops, let alone get to those books if the one you want is up there (and unlike the Parisian stores I’ve been to, there aren’t any public access ladders to make use of).

However, even though the store sometimes feels like an overwhelmingly large maze, everything is pretty neatly laid out with a clear and handy map next to the stair case. With four floors (more like three and a half nook) of books to wander, it’s a good thing too.

As we’ve talked about, there are tons of different kind of book nerd nirvanas and if you are a wanderer with a taste for in a mix of new prints and books with character and storied pasts and no shortage of time and a desire to wander and explore, the Strand is the place for you, my book nerd.

I’ll be honest, I had originally not planned to visit The Strand—my trip was so busy, time wasn’t really my own with the amount of people with us, and the store didn’t really stick out among any of the lists I was looking at.

Beautiful Classics. The Strand, New York CIty. March, 2015.
Beautiful Classics. The Strand, New York City. March, 2015.

But thank goodness it ended up along our path between destinations on a relatively empty afternoon (as I’ve mentioned, the people I was with weren’t really seasoned for the long walking/exploring days needed to get the feel of a city that never sleeps—most ended up sitting around as my sister and I explored the shelves only to hop in a taxi to the hotel to call it a night—in the middle of the afternoon!)

Anyway, despite what you may see in the picture lists that talk about the NYC bookstores ‘you must see when you have the chance’, the Strand is a great stop to go and explore the world of new and old books—and unlike the library, you get to keep the books! So go for it, Book hoarders, and explore. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed in your afternoon among the shelves.

I know I wasn’t.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Book Nerd: The Strand, NYC.

Book Nerds: New York Public Library

The very special edition.

100 Aker Woods Map New York Public Library, New York City. April, 2015.

Yes, my fellow traveling book nerds, this is a special edition of this odd saga I’m currently undertaking, but who can blame me, right?

Thus far my adventures have had me bouncing around from beautiful bookstore to bookstore across continents and seas—some of these adventures will be posted in the next few weeks, don’t worry!—but who can forget the even bigger haven of the book nerd—especially us broke students or post-grads: Public Libraries!

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know I had a very impromptu trip to New York City to visit my family (yes, that will also be a post!) and my mother (she knows me so well) planned a very special trip to the New York Public Library. Now, before you get too excited, I have to say that there were eight of us with the age range of 60 years or so, so to say the trip was short would be a major understatement—they couldn’t take the whole day running around the city on a good day, let alone the last one.

So, in the end we only went through one small section but it was beautiful!

Day at the Library. New York Public Library, New York City, New York. April, 2015.
Day at the Library. New York Public Library, New York City, New York. April, 2015.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The library is huge and filled with everything you can possibly imagine, not to mention the fact that it is one of the major landmarks in the city being featured in films like Ghostbusters. The front is picturesque with its twin lion statues and Bryant Park around back, if you fancy a nice lunch in the sun before, after, or between looking through the library’s enormous collections.

But let’s get down to why this book nerd loved this particular trip, despite how short it was: Pooh Bear.

Love. New York Public Library, New York City, New York. April, 2015.
Love. New York Public Library, New York City, New York. April, 2015.

That’s right, that silly, old bear ended up being the reason we went out that day.

In the children’s section of the library, situated just to the right of the side entrance doors, in their own little room are all inspirations of the characters most of us grew up loving. I stood in the corner of the room reading Pooh Bear quotes to my sister while my mom teared up and snapped pictures.

If I couldn’t spend the day running through the whole building, this little room was worth the effort for those of us who love to read and just don’t want to grow out of believing these characters are as real as anything else—those who just aren’t ready to let go of the magic of books and grow up.

One warning, however, my dear book nerds: if you are in the children’s section with a group of rowdy adults who can take things more than a bit too far, be aware of the audience because things can really get out of hand—children’s art books can be interpreted in many ways, fiends… and it is wrong.

Anyway, to leave you with a quote (which made my mother tear up) which sums up this post, my trip, and brings in a little bit of travelers’ wisdom:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together…  there is something you must always remember.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”                                                               –A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Book Nerds: New York Public Library