As important as the books are the stores who safeguard them until they're taken to their new homes to be devoured.
Below, we've rounded up nine of the world's most iconic independent bookstores.
Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France
Arguably the world's most famous independent bookstore, Shakespeare & Company has served not just as a shop but also as a library and even a place to sleep for writers willing to trade some time working in the establishment over the years.
Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
This one-of-a-kind bookstore is named 'high water bookshop' in Italian referencing the extreme flooding Venice experiences each year. In addition to high shelves, a variety of imaginative storage options including bathtubs, rowboats, canoes and a gondola are tasked with keeping the books safe from water damage. The store also features stairs fashioned from books with a sign imploring visitors to climb to the top and be rewarded with a magnificent view of Venice's famous canals.
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello is not only one of the world's oldest bookstores, it is also regarded as one of the most impressive. Built in 1906, it features an enchanting blend of neo-Gothic and art nouveau design elements including a fairytale-esque forked spiral staircase. It will come as no surprise to learn it's one of author JK Rowling's favourite bookstores and is said to have served as inspiration for the Flourish and Blotts magical bookstore in Harry Potter.
Word on the Water, London, United Kingdom
This quirky floating bookstore is homed inside a 1920s Dutch barge. In past years, it moved along Regent's Canal but it's now permanently docked by Granary Square in King’s Cross. If you time your visit to Word on the Water right, you might even be treated to a live jazz performance.
Powell’s City of Books, Portland, United States
Claiming the title of being the largest used and new bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire city block in Portland, Oregon. No matter how niche your topic of interest is, you're likely to find something within the labyrinth of books on display here.
Polare Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands
If you're searching for the world's most beautiful bookstore, Polare Maastricht, formerly known as Selexyz Dominicanen, may very well be it. Housed inside a Dominican church dating back to 1294 A.D, this 700-year-old architectural wonder is an absolute feast for the eyes.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
As the name would suggest, this incredible bookstore is a cavernous trove of literary splendour. Originally designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol as the Gran Splendid theatre and cinema, today the space is inhabited by an incredible bookshop preserving the original features of the building.
Daunt Books Marylebone, London, United Kingdom
Occupying a former Edwardian bookshop built in 1910, Daunt Books Marylebone boasts exquisite oak galleries stacked with a dizzying array of fiction and non-fiction books. A magnificent arched window and ornate skylight flood the store with sunlight. When you visit, ensure you pickup one of the iconic Daunt Books canvas book bags on your way out.
The Strand, New York City, United States
New York City's most celebrated bookshop, the Strand has been home to new, used and rare books since 1927. Stacked to the roof with wares, the store promises '18 miles of books' for customers to pore over.