Who needs behemoth Barnes & Noble chains when you have hundreds of charming individual bookstores scattered around the city. These stores range greatly from traditional Spanish stores with antique maps and grungy vintage treasures, to colorful, contemporary shopfronts that feature raging feminist literature. Here are some of the hottest bookstores in the center of Madrid right now.
The white stucco walls and exposed wooden ceiling creates an instant, homey atmosphere as book-lovers stumble in at any time of the day (of course not including siesta hours of 3:00-5:00). This bookstore/bar/coffee shop is located in the popular Malasaña neighborhood, an easy turn off one of the main, local shopping streets Calle de Fuencarral. The full name is “Tipos Infames: Libros y Vinos” (The Infamous Types/Guys: Books and Wine”. You can come here on a late evening and sip a glass of Rioja while browsing the large selection of mostly Spanish narrative literature. The three owners, all friends, embrace the challenge of redefining traditional bookstores by offering frequent expositions, series of author editorials and by creating a welcoming and dynamic space for the community to enjoy.
“Nos gusta el vino y pensamos que marida con la literatura, ven a comprobarlo.” — We like wine and think that it marries well with literature, come try it!
Desperate Lit. is a small international business with stores in Brooklyn, Madrid and Santorini. This tiny, hole in the wall shop is tucked into a side street near the Opera metro. When you step past the door surrounded by green plants and mystery gift packs, you’ll come across an antique megaphone, a large oriental red rug, and an old wooden guitar sitting in the corner, just waiting to be played. They have a relatively small, yet classic, collection of English, Spanish and French books, seemingly focused on smaller name poets and sci-fi authors. The business is interested in recycling literature, so they offer to buy and trade second-hand books that are in good condition.
Steps away from one of the busiest metro stops, Callao, and across the street from a favorite Chocolatería Valor is a bookstore called LA Central. The shop includes a fancy (yet a bit pricey on a students’ budget) bistro and cocktail bar, hipster posters, touristy Madrid paraphernalia, and a library mainly comprising of philosophy, history, language and social sciences. The sleek walls holds thousands and thousands of books in several different languages. And the wooden staircase connects three different floors and up to a pretty glass ceiling, so you can enjoy reading in natural light. The store is always full of people, and holds book nights, comedy shows, and forums for new authors to exhibit and explain new works.
Traficante de Sueños
In the heart of La Latina is this pleasant find, a bookstore that focuses on providing a progressive attitude toward the power of literacy. It is not only store, but an open community that offers a number of presentations, debates and workshops. The store targets a younger generation and encourages political discussion by selling mostly non-fiction books about history, social justice and humanitarian movements. They believe in “el libro como herramienta de intervención” – (the book as a tool of intervention). While I have only stopped here a few times and never bought anything, I respect the mission and think that like-minded entrepreneurs should be inspired to launch similar stores in other cities to touch educated, youths and inspire a well-read environment regarding modern social and political issues.
Other spots worth mentioning:
Librería Mujeres: Feminist literature and slam poetry near Plaza Mayor
Molar: Graphic novels and Spanish Records in La Latina
J&J’s Books: Expat community with a large selection of English books (and a brunch spot with bagels!) in Malasaña
Along with all of these quirky little shops, Madrid also has some outdoor book stands that are open in good weather. You can find old vintage postcards, maps and random second-hand books at the small wooden stand called La Librería de San Ginés, which is built on the side of the stone cathedral wall. On the southern side of Retiro park you can find small blue stands with canvas tops that sell all types of books. They bring out carts onto the street. I have seen books from some of my favorite Latin American authors, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, being sold here. With the right amount of browsing, I am certain that both of these outdoor shops have many treasures yet to be discovered!
These few favorites don’t even scratch the surface of all of the reading options available in the city. Overall, it seems that Madrid tend to cultivate an appreciation for art and literature and people enjoy supporting small, local businesses in order to preserve diversity and a genuine love for reading. Hopefully, this post has inspired you to go grab a book! …Or to buy a plane ticket to Madrid! Either one is fine by me.