Find a book that calls to you, purchase, then sit down with coffee and a pastry or light lunch and lose yourself in reading. A bookstore café: pure pleasure. Books + coffee, a match made in…Venice, in the sixteenth century?
Johannes Gutenberg married a few technical ideas to create movable-type press and, by 1450, he had established what is now known as a Gutenberg press in the city of Mainz, Germany. Typography arrived in Venice in 1469. Because of Venice’s centrality as a mercantile and shipping center, matched with the clamor for printed books, Venice became the center of the first publishing industry. Instead of taking months to hand-write a single book, the Gutenberg press allowed printers to reproduce many copies of a book in weeks, even days. See how it worked.
The Coffee Bearer by John Frederick Lewis (1857). Cairo,
Coffee plants originally came from Ethiopia, but once people discovered its delights, the bean and beverage spread. Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, adopted coffee in the early sixteenth century. Then it spread to Europe through Venice. Coffee beans first arrived in Venice around 1570 and were sold in pharmacies. Coffee quickly “jumped ship” and became popular as a stimulating drink. The earliest date I could locate for a bookstore café is the Café Procope, opened in 1686 in Paris’s Latin Quarter. Except for a 50-year break beginning in the 1870s, it’s been open continually since the 17th century.
My introduction to bookstore cafes came when I was editor of National Parks magazine, in Washington D.C. I love making magazines, but editorial work is full of stressful deadlines: manuscripts, photos, page proofs, press deadlines. I discovered Kramers bookstore café near Dupont Circle and that became a lunch-time escape. In Denver, it was the Tattered Cover. When I lived in Johnson City, Tennessee, Malaprop’s bookstore was just over the hill in Asheville, North Carolina. Here in San Jose, it’s a ten-minute drive to a large Barnes and Noble with a café.
Below is a sampling of bookstore cafes. Add your favorites in the Comments section.
Atlanta, GA, Lucian Books and Wine
Asheville, NC: Malaprop’s
Austin, TX: BookPeople
Boulder, CA: Trident
Brooklyn, NY: Café Con Libros
Charlotte, NC: Julia’s Café & Books
Chicago, IL: The Book Cellar
Corte Madera, CA: Book Passage
Denver, CO: Tattered Cover
Iowa City, IA: Sidekick Coffee & Books
Los Angeles, CA: Stories Books & Café
New York, NY: Housing Works Bookstore
Portland, OR: Powells
San Francisco, CA: Black Bird Bookstore + Café
San Jose, CA: Barnes and Noble
Seattle, WA: Elliott Bay Book Co.
Washington, D.C.: Kramers
Washington, D.C.: Politics and Prose
Thinking of opening a bookstore café? Here’s how.
Judging Noa: a Fight for Women’s Rights in the Turmoil of the Exodus is Michal Strutin’s debut novel. She is now working on a mystery series set in the Late Renaissance. Michal’s award-winning nonfiction focuses on natural and cultural history and travel. Her eight nonfiction books include Places of Grace: the Natural Landscapes of the American Midwest with photographer Gary Irving; Discovering Natural Israel, a high-spirited discovery of flora, fauna, and people; Florida State Parks: a Complete Recreation Guide; and History Hikes of the Smokies.