The world's most inspiring bookstores

From Gothic cathedrals to revamped factories, these spaces will make you rethink your Kindle

Published May 15, 2011 9:01PM (EDT)

W. Somerset Maugham called books "a refuge from almost all the miseries of life" -- and as fun as travel can be, being far from home can also be exhausting, hectic and fraught with flashes of sweet misery. For literate travelers, a good bookstore is a sanctuary.

What makes a bookstore beautiful? As their numbers dwindle in so many places, just having the doors open may qualify. Many of the shops in this slide show took over repurposed buildings whose previous tenants were once important local institutions like glove factories, theaters, friaries and grist mills. All of them are brimming over with beauty of one kind or another -- opulent architecture, quirky one-of-a-kind collections, unique ways of encouraging exploration, teetering stacks of mystery and chaos that reflect a community's reading habits. It's terrifying to consider that the generations alive today may be the last to experience the serendipity of scouring shelves of books side by side with other bibliophiles.

Found a bookstore on your travels that is worth making a special trip? Tell us about it in the comments. You can find more indie bookstores on

By Megan Cytron

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