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Even though e-readers and tablets are becoming increasingly common, brick-and-mortar bookstores (and paper-page books, for that matter) aren’t quite yet a thing of the past. Excellent independent bookstores are not only still open for business in cities and communities throughout the country, some even specialize—and thrive—in the travel niche. TPG Contributor Jessica Spiegel shares some of the best travel-focused bookstores in America that serve the literary wanderlust inside each and every one of us.
Wide World Books & Maps—Seattle, Washington
Founded in 1976, this Seattle standby claims it’s the oldest travel-only bookstore in the United States. The shop stocks travel guides, travel literature, phrasebooks, a great selection of maps, as well as a variety of travel gear—from luggage to sleep sacks to electricity converters. The store also hosts in-store events like readings and informal meetups for travelers.
Traveler’s Bookcase—Los Angeles, California
Open since 1991, and it’s a haven for travel junkies. The current owner (who has been to more than 75 countries on her own, and runs literary salons on the side) has had the shop since 2007, and makes a point of hiring well-traveled staff so that your questions can always be answered by a knowledgeable someone. The focus of the store is on travel books—both guidebooks and travel literature—but it also has some travel gear such as neck pillows and passport covers.
Idlewild Books—New York City
These two New York bookstores—one in Manhattan (opened in 2008) and the other in Brooklyn (opened in 2012)—are centers for a whole world’s worth of travel books. They not only carry travel guidebooks and travel literature, they also have sections for books in French, Spanish, and Italian. Both stores also offer ongoing, regular language classes in (depending on the store) French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and German.
Powell’s Books—Portland, Oregon
This massive, beloved city landmark is a Portland institution, and while it’s far from strictly a travel bookstore it does have an impressive travel section. Powell’s flagship store has a whopping 68,000 square feet of space spread over four floors. The Red Room is home to a vast selection of travel guidebooks and travel literature—both new and used—as well as maps, and a small section of travel accessories. A few rows away, you’ll also find a large section dedicated to languages, with language learning books and books in each language.
Brookline Booksmith—Brookline, Massachusetts
The Globe Corner Bookstore in Cambridge was a pillar of the travel bookstore world from 1982 until it closed its doors in 2011. The inventory, however, was purchased by Booksmith in Brookline (outside Boston), which now operates a section of its store called the Globe Corner Annex. The Annex is inside the Booksmith store, and stocks the same types of things the old Globe Corner store did—travel guidebooks, travel literature, maps, and travel accessories.
Distant Lands—Pasadena, California
Distant Lands opened in 1989 as a bookstore dedicated solely to travel. Since then, the store has quadrupled its inventory and now stocks travel books, games and maps, as well as travel gear, luggage, clothing and accessories. They even have an ebook store selling titles for use on Kobo eReaders. Regular events are held at the store, including readings and informational travel-advice sessions.
Changes in Latitude—Boulder, Colorado
Opened in 1993 after the founder returned from a 15-month round-the-world trip, all of the people on staff at Changes in Latitude are passionate travelers and able/willing to steer you in a helpful direction. Both a travel-gear/-clothing shop and a bookstore, the shelves here are stocked with a surprisingly wide selection of travel guidebooks. The store also runs a weekly series of travel events on Tuesdays, offering packing clinics, travel slideshows and more.
Editor’s Note: While most major credit cards don’t specify travel books among their categorized travel spending, a travel book purchase could very well inspire a great adventure—and an excellent excuse to redeem your hard-earned points and miles!
Have you been to any of these bookstores—or have any other favorites to share?