Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Paradise is a Room-Full of Books

Growing up, I was happiest in a room filled with books. I’d save pocket money from odd jobs and household chores and spend it on discreet paperback classics and pulpy fantasy novels. It was an escape from the tyrannical atmosphere of our family home, and my bedroom was soon filled with books containing worlds and words that offered a kind of comfort I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Today, every time I pass a quirky-looking bookstore I can’t resist going inside it. The best bookstores are one-of-a-kind places featuring indie publishers like mine, and a welcoming atmosphere that reflects the neighborhood, not the ethos of a suburban chain store.

My favorite neighborhoods in Sydney are Darlinghurst and Paddington, where the bookstores per-capita are the highest in town.

This display drew me into Ariel Books today:

Ariel Bookstore, Sydney
Who thought astroturf could look so good on a book cover?

Ariel Bookstore, Sydney
Orange stools and flowers invite readers to spend some time with Ariel’s punk rock selection

Ariel Bookstore, Sydney

Their kids’ section has a well-used table to tame small customers and give parents a few moments peace

Ariel Bookstore, Sydney

And you can browse through books while relaxing on a couch under a pseudo-gothic poster of Winona Ryder by Marc Ryden

My next stop was Ampersand Cafe Bookstore, its three storeys filled with secondhand books selected by discerning buyers.  Their staff are friendly, laid-back and highly caffeinated. Their Lindt mochas could knock a girl’s knickers off with a rich and creamy chocolate kick.

The best way to savor Ampersand is to soak in the atmosphere of their reading rooms like this one:

Ampersand Bookstore, Sydney

Reading by the light of a chandelier is a romance you can’t get at home

Ampersand Bookstore, Sydney

These velvet chairs are the perfect place to rifle through shelves packed with travel and art books. I found photos of handsome Moroccan men taken by Paul Bowles during his long residence there, and spent some quality time exploring imaginary worlds with Jan Morris.  A room-full of books still gives a comfortable escape from a frenetic world, and offers undreamt-of possibilities.

What’s your favorite bookstore, wherever you are now or wherever you’ve been?

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