The 10 Best Fictional Bookstores in Pop Culture
It’s no secret that we love bookstores here at Flavorpill, but being as pop culture-minded as we are, we’ve found that we like the fictional shops almost as much as those we can visit in real life. One of our favorite bookstores on TV, Portlandia‘s Women & Women First, will soon be taking a vacation, so to console ourselves, we’ve created a list of our ten favorite fictional bookstores from all over pop culture. Now, we’ve limited ourselves to bookstores that are truly fictional, not just appearing in fiction — so the Travel Book Shop from Notting Hill and the defunct-but-actual shop at 84 Charing Cross Road are sadly both eliminated. Click through to see our list of our favorite fictional bookstores from film, TV and literature, and let us know if we’ve missed your own favorite in the comments!
Embryo Concepts, from Funny Face
While searching for a “sinister” bookstore to give their photo shoot some intellectual weight, a fashion magazine editor and photographer find Embryo Concepts in Greenwich Village. We don’t know about sinister, but it’s definitely the most overtly intellectual bookshop we’ve ever encountered — even after it gets destroyed by a fashion shoot crew. And Audrey Hepburn doesn’t hurt either.
Monsieur Labisse’s bookshop, from Hugo
With its books piled to the lofty ceilings and overflowing with old world charm, this might be the dreamiest bookstore we’ve ever laid eyes on — which is perhaps not surprising for the bookstore in a movie that just won an Academy Award for best art direction. The set was filled with over 40,000 volumes, and simply begs you to get lost inside, but best of all is probably Mr. Labisse himself, the wizened, kindly gatekeeper to the internal world. See more pictures here.
Brightman’s Attic, from The Brooklyn Follies
The secondhand bookstore in Paul Auster’s novel sounds right up our alley: “Thousands of items were crammed onto the shelves down there — everything from out-of-print dictionaries to forgotten bestsellers to leatherbound sets of Shakespeare — and Tom had always felt at home in that kind of paper mausoleum, flipping through piles of discarded books and breathing in the old dusty smells.” We know what you mean, Tom.
Argosy Book Shop, from Vertigo
Based on the real-life San Francisco book shop The Argonaut, the Argosy is everything one could want in a fictional bookstore — rich, dark wood, glass cases, tchotchkes, cluttered shelves, and a proprietor who knows the scoop on the McKittrick Hotel and what happened to Carlotta.
Women First from Portlandia
We think it’s only fair to celebrate Portland’s premier feminist bookstore, seeing how it just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Always one of our favorite parts of the show, Women & Women First is the place to go for “bottom-selling authors,” classes in queer studies, and really terrible impressions. Just don’t try to ask for any of the books on the top shelf.
Ray’s Occult Books, from Ghostbusters 2
After the Ghostbusters went bankrupt, Ray turned to bookselling, opening up a shop specializing in “bizarre, somewhat strange, and hard to find books.” And it’s a good thing too — where else would Peter Venkman be able to buy a book entitled Magical Paths to Fortune and Power?
Black Books, from Black Books
Black Books is filled with cozy nooks and crannies, not to mention leather-bound editions of Dickens novels, but that’s not really the reason we love it so much. The reason is Bernard Black, the antisocial curmudgeon, played to belligerent perfection by Dylan Moran, who owns the eponymous bookstore in this delightfully strange British sitcom. No matter how much he hates us, we’ll never hate him.
Flourish & Blotts, from the Harry Potter series
Here’s another shop just bursting at the seams with books — only, since they’re all magic books, some of them are probably actively trying to get away. That’s what you get when you order hundreds of copies of The Monster Book of Monsters. Since ee think regular bookstores are imbued with enough magic and possibility on their own; so we can only imagine the kind of sparks we might feel in an honest-to-goodness magical bookstore. Sigh.
Carolina’s Café con Libros, from Desperado
Sure, the books might be there mostly to hide the cash Carolina has been saving for her getaway, but that doesn’t make us love this dusty, sun-soaked Mexican shop any less. Plus, the lady that works there can sew up your gunshot wounds in a pinch, which is always helpful. And there’s coffee. What more could you ask for?
The Shop Around The Corner, from You’ve Got Mail
Cheesy as the movie is, we just couldn’t leave this one out. The adorable independent bookstore run by Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly captured millions of hearts, who cheered for it against the megastores of Fox Books (and also cheered for Kathleen to marry the wealthy proprietor of said megastore). Well, we can’t say we disagree.
Reprint: Flavorwire 03/04/12 by Emily Temple