Our family's souvenir bookshops
Bookstores offer a welcome respite from busy vacation schedules.
John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Some vacationers collect snow globes or seashells. My family collects bookshops. No, we can't pack a bookshop and display it on a dresser, but when we discover a bookstore that captures the flavor of our destination, we stow the memory like a treasured souvenir.
To be clear, the Gehans can swim, ski, and sightsee as hard as the toughest tourists. We seek out bookshops to duck in from the sun or rest our weary feet. If you find yourselves looking for bookshop balance on your next vacation, visit these favorites from our collection:
The Brewster Book Store in Brewster, Mass. Riding bicycles along Cape Cod's Rt. 6A, we discovered not one but two children's sections squeezed into this classic New England cottage. The store's Cape Cod picture-book collection practically spills out the door.
Look for "Riptide," based on a true story of a local dog with a rogue spirit who – why don't you find out for yourself? We also recommend "The Wedding Planner's Daughter," a chapter book with scenes from Brewster's own Ocean Edge Resort. The back of the shop is stocked full of science and world-record type volumes.
Children's Shop at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The underground concourse linking the National Gallery of Art's east and west wings is an architectural marvel and home to a delicious children's bookshop. Shelves of picture books make fine art and artists irresistible for young and old.
Don't miss "Charlotte in Giverny," a fictional illustrated diary of an American girl spending the summer of 1892 among Impressionists, and "Art Fraud Detective," where readers search masterpieces for forgery clues and explore fine art.
Salt Lake City Public Library in Utah. We bend the "bookshop" rules here to include Salt Lake's book palace. Completed in 2003, a family could spend the entire day in the children's library where coves dubbed Grandmother's Attic and Crystal Cave are ideal for curling up with a story or unfurling one's imagination.
It can get sunny sitting at the base of the five-story atrium, and when it does, librarians press a button to move a billowing, cloudlike fabric over the space. Salt Lake's central library boasts a cafe, shopping, and a rooftop garden that's a good place to look up from a book and enjoy views of the Wasatch Mountains.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers at the Power Plant in Baltimore, Md. No ordinary big box, this former power plant from the turn of the 20th century was reinvented as a bookstore in the late 1990s but kept its hard industrial edge in the process. Ride the exposed escalators up along the "furnace tubes" to the children's section.
For a bird's-eye view of the city, look for "Perry's Baltimore Adventure" in which readers tour Baltimore through the perspective of a peregrine falcon nesting in a city skyscraper.
Hamlet's Bookshoppe in Breckenridge, Colo. Main Street in Breckenridge is a picturesque place because of Victorian charmers like Hamlet's. The whimsical throne in the children's corner is the ideal perch on which to read "C is for Centennial: A Colorado Alphabet." (We are always on the lookout for the "Discover America State by State" books since they appeal to all ages in our family.) When we asked for a restroom, the bookseller showed us a lavatory secreted behind a door of greeting cards.
While our family might disagree over what thrill-ride line to wait in or what restaurant to dine in, when it comes to the query at Hamlet's Bookshoppe, "To Read or Not to Read?" we are always on the same page.