Being a book nerd and an intern at a publishing house in Santiago means that often, going to bookstores around the city counted as work research. Here are some of my favorite bookstores in Santiago, Chile.
Universidad de Chile
The GAM Cultural Center has permanent and temporary exhibitions and interactive installations, along with dance and theater showings in their state-of-the-art auditorium. Inside the lobby is a mahogany-wood-shelved bookstore filled with feminist, Chilean, genre fiction, coffee-table books, and all other types of publications from Literatura Random House to smaller independent presses. I saw one of my favorites, Lina Meruane’s Sangre en el Ojo, on the display table, but I already had a copy back home in Iowa. Street vendors outside the Center sell used and antique books for a few dollars as well; I found a Spanish version of The Neverending Story on my way out for the equivalent of $3.
This open-air market on the main Providencia avenue is comprised of little hole-in-the-wall bodegas selling books both inside their nooks and on the tables in front of their shop space. I found an old anthology of writing and a hardback Real Academia Espanola edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. Before I left, the shop owner asked to see the antique anthology, opened it, and pointed at the copyright year: 1970. “It’s very old,” he said. “Por favor, cuidarse. Take care of it.” I promised I would, giggling a little bit.
GreenLibros is a good-sized bookstore in the urban and graffiti-covered Recoleta district. A single chair and table in the back functioned as seating and the organization of the books was a little messy. Despite that, I appreciated the U.S. 80s playlist they turned on when I walked into the empty shop on an early Saturday morning. They had a wall of old Latin American authors, and a section of that wall was sectioned off for Chilean authors specifically. Between a worn copy of Isabelle Allende’s House of Spirits and Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, I read the title The Moon was my Earth, by Enrique Araya. I opened it up and saw that it was signed; my interest was piqued. After spending the better half of an hour sitting in the lone chair in the back with my nose in the first chapter, I bought it.
This bookstore on Italia avenue has the perfect location in the hip and trendy Barrio Italia. They carry a wide array of genres and hot-off-the-press new releases, for a price similar to Barns & Noble in the U.S. I picked up a sociology book on the vulva throughout human history for roughly the equivalent of $25.
This bookstore in Santiago’s modern gem Costanera Center fits the regal aura of the rest of the shopping center. The initial display tables featured Isabelle Allende’s new book The Large Petal of the Sea and recent translations of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books. The aesthetic of the shop was stately and well-organized.
various Metro locations
Okay, this isn't a book store, it's a public library, which is even better! And it's in the subway stations! Although I didn’t personally patron this service since I didn't have a RUT (Chilean social security number), I loved seeing the mini-libraries on the metro subway stations. You could check out or return borrowed books at any location on the metro, and they offered digital e-book lending as well. Some station locations even had a sitting area to read at as well.
Obviously, the two months I was there was not enough time to see every bookshop in Santiago, though I certainly tried. Every bookstore I visited felt so unique and different that it's difficult to compare them, the ones I wish I could go back to are Veneto Gallery or GreenLibros. What can I say? I like a book with a story.
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<p>Rebecca Carey has been an avid literature and science fiction fan since reading her father’s copy of Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” as a child. She has been writing professionally for two years and has published prose, poetry, and short fiction in the University of Iowa’s undergraduate literary reviews ‘InkLit,’ ‘Witness,’ and ‘Peripheral’ in 2018 and 2019, and has published poetry translations in the University of Iowa’s undergraduate translation Journal ‘Boundless’ in 2019. She is a Creative Writing and Translation student at the Univerisity of Iowa hoping to pursue a Master’s degree in translation studies after graduation. When she isn’t buried in a book, she’s usually somewhere in between the realm of overthinking, daydreaming, and wishing she was born 500 years in the future so she could have lived on Mars. Favorite novels of hers include Trenton Lee Stwart’s “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” Jeff Vandermeer’s “Annihilation,” and William Burrough’s “Naked Lunch.” Some of her favorite Chilean authors are Lina Meruane, Roberto Balaño, and Pablo Neruda.</p>