Books and Music
Bookstores are where Buenos Aires shopping really shines; they are as much—or more—cultural as commercial institutions, and they take that role seriously.
Buenos Aires’s signature bookstore is the Microcentro branch of El Ateneo (Florida 340, tel. 011/4325-6801, www.tematika.com.ar), which has a huge selection of Argentine history, literature, and coffee-table souvenir books, plus domestic travel titles (it is also a publishing house).
The most elegant, though, is the affiliated El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Avenida Santa Fe 1880, Barrio Norte, tel. 011/4813-6052), which made The Guardian’s list of the world’s ten best bookstores. Opened in December 2000, it occupies a recycled cinema that deserves a visit simply to see its seamless transformation—the stage is a café, readers can relax in the opera-style boxes, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line the curving walls of the upper levels.
In a notable art deco building, Monserrat’s Librería de Ávila (Adolfo Alsina 500, tel. 011/4311-8989, www.libreriadeavila.servisur.com) is a classic book dealer specializing in history, ethnology, travel literature, tango, folklore, and the like; it also hosts book presentations and even musical events, and it has a café.
San Telmo’s Walrus Books (Estados Unidos 617, tel. 011/4300-7135, www.walrus books.com.ar) carries an ample selection of English-language books well beyond the usual Stephen King potboilers. Hours are 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday.
Librería Platero (Talcahuano 485, Tribunales, tel. 011/4382-2215, www.libreriaplatero.com.ar) may be Buenos Aires’s best specialist shop, with an enormous stock of new and out-of-print books (the latter in the basement stacks). It does good trade with overseas academics and libraries.
Librerías Turísticas (Paraguay 2457, tel. 011/4963-2866 or 011/4962-5547) has an outstanding choice of Argentine maps and guidebooks, including its own guides to neighborhood cafés.
In addition to books, El Ateneo and El Ateneo Grand Splendid carry quality CDs. Zivals (Avenida Callao 395, tel. 011/5128-7500, www.zivals.com) has a large and varied bargain bin in addition to its regular stock. For alternative music, try Disquería Oid Mortales (Avenida Corrientes 1145, Local 17, tel. 011/4382-8839, www.oidmortalesdiscos.com.ar) or Free Blues (Rodríguez Peña 438, tel. 011/4373-2999), which deals in used CDs, cassettes, and even vinyl.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition