I'm only commenting on bookstores I took pictures of - I went to far too many overall (thank goodness I didn't know of Nigel Beale's Literary Tourist site at the time, or it would have been much worse). I also missed most of the bookstores I wanted to visit in Toronto, due to time constraints. So, with those qualifications, here are my favourite bookstores that Marta and I visited in Ontario, Quebec and New York:
Nicholas Hoare, Ottawa
I didn't realize this was a "chain" bookstore until I started writing this post. Chapters, take note - spacious and beautiful with literature profiled up front, instead of board games and Celine Dion CDs.
Collected Works, Ottawa
We lucked out in Ottawa and stayed with a friend who lived almost across the street from this bookstore. Plenty of poetry, author visits, and open mics. And style points for the giant book dangling from the sign.
The Word, Montreal
I already blogged about how The Other Side of Ourselves made it onto the display shelf at The Word, so it's not too surprising that I enjoyed my visit. The picture above doesn't show much, I know, but then I don't think that there's a sign outside the store to photograph, even if I had remembered to. The Word could easily be missed, hidden away near the McGill campus on, appropriately, Milton Street. It shouldn't be, as the selection in this new-and-used bookstore was quite impressive (and is only a small sample of a collection that sprawls out into numerous nearby storage areas).
St. Matthew's Church, Quebec City
Ok, this isn't a bookstore, but it was a first for Marta and I, and seemed worth noting here: a church converted into a public library. Could be a good backup plan, Toronto...
The Strand, New York City
I think I was supposed to know about The Strand in advance, but I did not. Luckily, we stumbled upon it on our very first day in New York (and returned with a bigger backpack a few days later). It's a small town, we were bound to run into it eventually.
You see that man on a ladder - he is risking life in pursuit of poetry. While I was there a number of people did the same, and there were a couple near-falls and bump-overs as we jostled about in the narrow poetry corridors. As I've said before, poets are not exactly experts at moving through space. Sitting, we're good at. Really good. But when it comes to coordinated human movement... yikes...
But it was well worth the risk to see their selection, which included far more lesser-known Canadian poets than our bookstores feature lesser-known Americans. We win this round, NAFTA!
So those are my picks. Don't like them? Well, Nick has a message for you:
p.s. For all I saw, nothing came close to the wonder and insanity that is MacLeods. So don't feel too jealous, Vancouver!
p.p.s. CBC Books just announced its readers Top 10 Canadian Bookstores.
p.p.p.s. In sad news, everyone's favourite little Winnipeg bookstore, Aqua Books, has announced that they will be closing in the fall.