I’ve said this once, I’ll say it again: I think You’ve Got Mail might be a veritable cinematic masterpiece, and it has a lot to do with the movie’s fictional bookshop centrepiece. The central struggle of the film seems outdated today – tiny, independent bookshop rallies against the megalith franchise – considering that bookstores of all kinds are having to fight for sales against online stores. But in 1998, the year the movie was released, the struggle was real. And Kathleen Kelly’s earnest, rustic, Anne Geddes cum Laura Ashley children’s bookshop on the Upper West Side with story time and gold fish is such stuff that dreams are made on. If this bookshop genuinely existed, I would be fighting Heather Burns for the job of wide-eyed, bookish shop assistant. And I would win. The scene when Kathleen has to close the store (above) is probably the best representation of a heart breaking in film. It is devastating and I have cried many tears watching that scene.
The Travel Bookshop, Notting Hill
So this is a little cheat, because The Travel Bookshop actually did exist in Notting Hill (and ahem, in Notting Hill) until 2011, when the blue-fronted shop closed its doors for good. IRL, it wasn’t just a travel bookhop, and so strange customers could come in and request, say, the latest John Grisham or even Winnie the Pooh. But in Notting Hill it was a niche store with terrible management, running itself into ground, where part-time criminals could try and shove guide books down their trousers or where actresses could peruse guides to Turkey. It was also the location for the film’s most famous scene, involving just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.
Flourish & Blotts, Harry Potter
Imagine shopping for your schoolbooks in a shop like this, where the titles are stacked to the ceiling with such crazy things as the Invisible Book of Invisibility (costing the owners a stack of money and they never could find them, anyway), and The Monster Book Of Monsters, which turned into a ravenous monster and ate all the other books. Just magical.
Embryo Concepts, Funny Face
The lovely, cosy looking philosophy bookstore presided over by Audrey Hepburn (unconvincingly trying to look frumpy in a tweedy smock and turtleneck) is so beautiful it becomes the backdrop to a fashion photoshoot. It’s also the place that photographer Fred Astaire discovers his new muse (Audrey, of course), where she is promptly whisked off to Paris (!!!) for a glamorous magazine story, complete with Givenchy costumes, iconic locations and jazz clubs.
Sempere and Sons, The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zagon’s beautiful postwar Barcelona novel features some of the best descriptions of bookstores in literature, stunning scenes set in Sempere and Sons, where Senor Sempere provide book recommendations tailored to each shopper’s personality, and the shop’s corresponding ‘Cemetary of Forgotten Books’, a winding, twisting, turning labyrinth of shelves that house the titles that the world doesn’t care about. This book is one of the highest-selling works of literary fiction of all time, surpassing 15 million copies sold, and we like to think it’s because it’s all about a magical bookshop.
Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore
This 2012 novel is a San Francisco icon, about a failed Sillicon Valley entrepreneur who finds employment in a mysterious 24/7 bookshop that also happens to be a front for an illicit secret society. Talk about a cracker of a plot! This book is the best. And don’t even get us started on all-night bookstores (not of the seedy variety). That is the dream.
Stars Hollow Books, Gilmore Girls
So many good things happened in this bookstore. It’s obviously the place that nourished Rory’s love of books from an early age (running count is 339 books read over the course of the series) and turned her into the heroine bookish girls not only needed but deserved in the mid ‘00s. It looks like a great bookshop, but let’s be real, out of all the stores in Stars Hollow is it really the one you’d want to shop at? (No. The answer is you want to go to Al’s Pancake World. Duh).