Cover of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Five SFF Bookstores and Libraries I’d Love to Browse

Readers can never truly get enough of books, and the proof is in the pages: Even when we’re reading to escape to another world, we love when we encounter the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of places packed with shelves of old and new books. Bookshops and libraries tend to make appearances in many of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy tales, and they’re always a welcome addition to any fictional world. I never pass up a chance to explore a bookshop, even when I’m right in the middle of a story!

Here are five of my favorite bookish settings in SFF, featuring the kinds of bookshops and libraries designed to capture the imagination of any bookworm…

A.Z. Fell & Co (Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)

Cover of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Aziraphale is such a tease. He founded A.Z. Fell & Co in the 1800s as a place to store his incredible rare book collection. The problem? He doesn’t sell any of his books, so it’s essentially a massive personal library.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting to wander in through those big doors and peruse the volumes Aziraphale has found over the years. His shop has that undefinable je ne sais quoi every book lover knows. It’s a cozy, warm, dimly lit room full of comfortable furniture and natural ambiance that makes for a perfect reading environment.

While it’s a damn shame we can’t visit this heavenly bookshop in real life, RadioTimes got us close with last year’s excellent profile of the A.Z. Fell & Co set for the Good Omens TV series.

Thistleburr Booksellers (Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree)

Cover Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

Travis Baldree found a legion of fans with his breakout debut, Legends & Lattes. He struck gold again with Bookshops & Bonedust, a charming prequel that follows orc barbarian Viv as she recovers from a battle-related injury in a quaint seaside town.

Impatient and frustrated with being temporarily out of action and worried that her comrades won’t return for her, Viv finds solace in fixing up the town’s bookshop, run by a foul-mouthed rattkin named Fern. The bookshop starts off as a musty, ramshackle place reminiscent of many an older used bookstore, filled with dusty tomes.

Through hard work, a few grassroots marketing campaigns, and a bit of charm, the bookshop soon becomes a destination for readers of all sorts–poetry buffs, romantasy fans, and everyone in between. After it’s fixed up and finally thriving following years of neglect, Fern’s bookshop retains its homey feel. The result is a wonderful bookshop and a cornerstone of Murk, the seaside community that soon falls in love with books in a way that will be instantly familiar to any reader.

Natsuki Books (The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa)

Cover of The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Rintaro’s grandfather passes away and leaves him the local secondhand bookstore, Natsuki Books. The reclusive and antisocial Rintaro plans to close the shop and move in with his well-to-do aunt. When a talking cat saunters in, asking Rintaro to join him on a quest to save books, the whole plan goes awry. Rintaro becomes embroiled in an effort to “rescue” books from owners who don’t want the best for the stories within their pages.

Since I’ve written about my fondness for cats on Reactor in the past, you might be wondering whether my intentions are pure, including a book like this on such a list. “This guy loves cats,” you might say. “He just wants a talking cat to take him on a bookish quest.”

Of course I do. Sure, Natsuki Books is a charming shop full of rare and esoteric tomes containing vast sums of knowledge. But the prospect of being guided through a labyrinth of shelves and into corners of the world in dire need of help—the kind of help only a shy bookworm can provide—is just too good for me to pass up. When my quests are complete, I’ll curl up in the cozy nooks of Natsuki Books and reminisce on my adventures with my nose firmly lodged between the pages of my latest read.

The Library of the Neitherlands (The Magicians by Lev Grossman)

Cover of The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Imagine a library connecting all universes and collecting every single story, told or untold, within its infinite walls. If you can do this, then you have a sense of the expansiveness of the multiversal Library of the Neitherlands from Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series.

I wasn’t sure about including this one on this list, thanks to the sheer volume of knowledge in the library. It quite literally contains all the knowledge in the universe, and that’s a dangerous place to get lost in. What wonders and horrors might it hold? What might you learn about yourself, your dearest loved ones, or your greatest enemies if you could spend an hour or a day in this library? Or perhaps you would seek the answers to some of life’s big questions, whatever you deem them to be! The thought of it gives me chills both out of fear and excitement, and I ended up deciding to include the Library of the Neitherlands here because, if my safety was guaranteed, I’d definitely visit… for a while.

The Library (The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern)

Cover of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Author Erin Morgenstern is no stranger to settings that overflow with magic, wonder, and whimsy. I loved her worldbuilding and descriptions in The Night Circus, and The Starless Sea carries on the tradition. The ancient underground library of The Starless Sea features mysteries and personal secrets galore, as protagonist Zachary discovers within the book’s pages.

Like the Library of the Neitherlands, this library is impossibly labyrinthine and absolutely massive. It is full of twists and turns and doors leading to odd places. And for any fans of felines who might be reading, it’s got plenty of cats. Leave it to Erin Morgenstern to take something utterly familiar to readers and turn it into a captivating and unforgettable fantasy locale. Perhaps one day, we’ll get to cross a painted threshold and see the place for ourselves…

Alright, readers—you know the drill! Please recommend your own favorite SFF bookstores and libraries in the comments below. icon-paragraph-end

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