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Great Escapes//5 Bibliophile Cities

NYC Library

Head inside the Fifth Avenue main branch of the New York Public Library and scale the stairs to the third floor’s grand Rose Main Reading Room, where the bronze lamp-lit oak tables seat more than 600 people.

New York
Head inside the Fifth Avenue main branch of the New York Public Library and scale the stairs to the third floor’s grand Rose Main Reading Room, where the bronze lamp-lit oak tables seat more than 600 people. Smaller and more refined is The Morgan Library & Museum, originally the private library of financier J. P. Morgan and now home to thousands of rare manuscripts and books. For books you can buy, head to the overwhelming Strand Book Store on Broadway at 12th Street downtown, with its inventory of more than 2.5 million new and used books. Smaller but nonetheless special is the flagship for publisher Rizzoli. Browse its three clubby, chandelier-lit levels for the best art, fashion, design and architecture books in the city. Then check into the warm, elegant Library Hotel, where each of the 10 guest room floors is dedicated to one of the 10 major Dewey Decimal System categories.

Copenhagen
The world-famous statue of The Little Mermaid on Copenhagen’s waterfront is a symbol of a city rich in literary history. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, including The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor’s New Clothes, have been translated into many languages, and actor-led “tours with Hans Christian Andersen” by Copenhagen Walks detail the writer’s life and visit his haunts. Nearly all known Danish books are housed at the Royal Library on Copenhagen’s waterfront, and the best bookshop with English titles is GAD, with locations throughout the city.

Minneapolis/St. Paul
The Twin Cities consistently rank among the top five most literate cities in the United States. The area’s love of books is apparent once you step inside downtown Minneapolis’ sunny, spacious Central Library, designed by Cesar Pelli. Nearby, check out Open Book, the largest literary arts center in the country and home to the nonprofit Loft Literary Center, which hosts readings by acclaimed authors. Local New York Times best-selling author Vince Flynn headlines the Mystery, Crime & Thriller Festival in November. Two of the coziest book shops in town are owned by other notable local authors—Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul and Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.

London
The city behind such literary greats as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens has maintained a bookish vibe for centuries. The academic Bloomsbury neighborhood is a stone’s throw from the British Library, with a gallery display that includes such treasures as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. London Walks, which leads Shakespeare, Dickens and Oscar Wilde tours, also counts “Literary Bloomsbury” and “Literary London Pub” among its takes on the city. Check out the Piccadilly outlet for U.K. chain Waterstone’s—Europe’s largest bookstore with six floors of books and a bar.

Seattle
Literate list-topper Seattle has also attracted plenty of attention for the ultramodern Rem Koolhaas/Joshua Prince-Ramus-designed Seattle Public Library, now five years old. Its auditorium hosts important book readings, as does the 850-seat Great Hall in the nonprofit Town Hall. This fall, three back-to-back nights feature readings there by Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood and James Ellroy. Of the stores, the University Book Store next to the University of Washington is the most comprehensive, and the Elliott Bay Book Company in downtown’s Pioneer Square neighborhood is the most atmospheric. Don’t miss the Elliott Bay Café downstairs.

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