Shop here: Skoob Books, London

Skoob Books
66, The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London
www.skoob.com/

Skoob Books was another one of those places that popped up on my Sygic Travel app while I was looking at other things in the area. It was described as a “second-hand bookshop boasting a huge selection of academic and art books.” Count me in – I was hoping there’d be more than just university text books in there.

Enter at street level and down the stairs you go, like Alice down the rabbit hole. I can see how some people might find the dingy, windowless basement vibe a bit claustrophobic and uncomfortable, but I instantly felt right at home in there. Because in that dimly lit basement, there are books everywhere. So many that the divine smell of musty old pages hits you before the sea of paper fills your vision.

This shop is filled to the brim with books. Crammed onto the shelves, piled on the floor, tucked under tables and falling out of boxes. They claim 55,000 books in a 186 square metre shop – that’s 295 books per square metre. That’s heaven. And it turns out they have a lot more than academic and art books – their range is probably the best I’ve ever seen in a used book store. Everything from philosophy and science to religion and history is covered in an atmosphere that can only be described as semi-organized chaos.

Possibly the best part is that the books are actually really reasonably priced, and they are constantly getting new books in (unlike some used bookstores that just have the same ones in stock for months on end because they’re too overpriced for anyone to purchase them…); they have a warehouse where they have over a million (!!!) books ready to replenish the shelves.

It’s a scary time for us bookworms; one day we read that book sales are up again, the next they’re closing bookstores as more people favour electronic devices to read from. But visiting Skoob gave me a bit of hope that maybe places like this can survive. Its the kind of place you immediately feel a kinship with the other patrons, where you get the feeling that the staff are there because they want to be and actually read, too. A bookshop where things are disordered enough that you feel comfortable being in there, but at the same time, the books are treated with the care and reverence by the types of people who understand that they’re not just books. This is the kind of bookshop that I really hope will never die out, because it’s a place that actually inspires you to pick up a book and read.

Shop here: Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

Libreria Acqua Alta
Where? Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176/B, 30122 Venice
When? Open daily 09:00 – 20:00

If you’ve ever been to Venice in the colder months, you’ll have no doubt seen what looks like trestle tables stacked up in random corners of the city (go on, Google it – I’ll wait). The city is not perpetually prepared for a giant street party; it’s ready for acqua alta.

When the tide rises, the waters of the Adriatic Sea come roaring in, and poor little Venice dips even further under water for a while! Those trestle tables go up to be used as elevated walkways (called passarelle), and everyone tries to keep their belongings and merchandise dry.

Luigi found a novel solution for the bookshop he named after this natural inconvenience, which he opened in 2004 – he put his books in water proof bins, small boats, bathtubs, even a gondola, parked in the middle of the store. When you open a store full of books on an island that’s slowly sinking, you have to take some extreme precautions!

It’s a haphazardly arranged shop with both new and old tomes, a fire escape that leads to a canal, and a stairway to heaven made of old books with one hell of a view from the top. The staff member I spoke to, while not terribly friendly, did speak English and was able to point me in the right direction. There are some books in English, French, Spanish – mostly they’re in Italian, though. There’s really not much else to write about this place that other bloggers haven’t already So, here’s another set of photos from this little piece of heaven, because how could you possibly get sick of looking at these?!

Eat & drink here: Buck Mulligan’s, Melbourne

Buck Mulligan’s
217 High St, Northcote
http://www.buckmulligans.com.au/

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!! I thought today might be a good day to let you know about a special little place that’s managed to stay under the radar for the past few months. When we walked past Buck Mulligan’s a few weeks ago, we had a pretty strong inkling that it was going to be our new favourite place – whiskey bar AND bookshop? Why yes, I think so!

Following an afternoon movie at Westgarth (and a large bucket of popcorn ), we made our way up High Street to Buck’s, and immediately fell completely in love. Exposed brick fireplace, wooden bookshelves, comfy couches and dusk light pouring in through the windows, we knew this was our place.

Husband wanted to sample some whiskey, and they have a great list to choose from – including a huge selection of Irish whiskeys. Husband went with the Teeling Flight, a selection of whiskeys from the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years: Small Batch, Single Grain, and Single Malt. They all got glowing reviews, and there’s a very good chance we may be visiting them in Dublin when we’re there in November…

They have wine and beer and cocktails, too, if whiskey isn’t your jam. And food – when you gorge on popcorn, you only need a light dinner, so we picked a few plates from their menu of nibbles:
– Clonakilty Bites (black pudding, fennel bread and relish), $6
– Traditional Ploughman’s for one (ham, cheese, pickled onions and relish, with Irish brown bread), $14
– Continental Ploughman’s for one (cold meats, cheese, olives mix with white crusty white bread), $15


Perfect. Simple, quality food is all you need, and this is it. The black pudding isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it if it’s done right, and this was. We were also super impressed by the serving sizes – for $15 and the quality of ingredients,  they were VERY good value for money.

And don’t forget thr books – a great selection of new and used books by Irish authors, a few from local writers and small publishers, and regular book reading and launch events. We’re already planning on spending many more hours tucked away at Buck’s,  sipping on whiskey and reading books… you might want to drop in, too 🙂

Shop here: Faulkner House Books, New Orleans

Faulkner House Books
624 Pirates Alley, New Orleans
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faulkner-House-Books/213477855446762

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How absolutely incredible, to be standing in the former home of literary giant William Faulkner in the middle of New Orleans’ French Quarter… The winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature, as well as two Pulitzers, is one of America’s most celebrated writers, and his former home in the French Quarter, lovingly and carefully restored by Rosemary James and Joe DeSalvo (who also live on the floor above the book store) is one of the most beautiful tributes a writer could hope to have.

It’s tucked well away and easy to miss, but if you have the address, just follow the map (or ask for directions!) and enter a literary wonderland. It’s a pretty small space, but it’s beyond beautiful, tightly packed with as many books as the little room can hold, and with particularly great sections on Mr Faulkner himself and poetic works from a range of writers. I was pretty happy to pick up a copy of Gumbo Ya-Ya there, and spent a solid 30 minutes browsing the books, lost in the perfectly chandelier lit happy place.

Faulkner House Books embodied everything I love – old houses with soul, creaky floorboards that tell a story, floor to ceiling shelves of books, history, and the smell of gumbo wafting from down the street. When you’re in New Orleans, make sure you drop in and pick yourself up some new reading material, and enjoy walking into a gorgeous little world away from the mayhem of Bourbon Street for a while!

Shop here: Grub Street Bookshop, Melbourne

Grub Street Bookshop, Fitzroy, Melbourne
http://www.abebooks.com/grub-street-bookshop-fitzroy/5730632/sf

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Welcome to my happy place. My favourite bookshop. My favourite shop. The place I can never leave empty handed. The place that I always have time to visit, even when my parking is about to run out. It’s my happy place. The Grub Street Bookshop on Brunswick St.

They have more books than they can fit on the old shelving, piling them up on the floor, small tables, in cardboard boxes and wherever else they can fit them. You’ll find second hand books on everything from cooking to history, art to travel, crime novels to science fiction, and literally everything in between. You can also find some beautiful vintage first editions, which won’t come cheap. I’ve found some of my favourite books there, and don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $12 for one. I love everything about this shop, from the creaky floors to the smell of the old pages, and I’ll keep visiting on a regular basis for as long as it’s open (please don’t ever close!) – you should get down there and have a look around, too 🙂

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