A cab driver once told me that, at the age of eight, he walked 10 miles from his Egyptian hometown in search of a private library rumored to have a copy of Nizar Qabbani’s Arabian Love Poems. Disregarding Washington D.C.'s late-night club-goers jaywalking outside the taxi, he drove me home swooning, reciting verses from another book he’d discovered on that journey—Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.
A good library is always worth the trip for what we might find there, whether it is 10 miles away or 10 countries away, whether the books are two inches high or two stories high, whether they arrive via donkey, camel, boat, or bike. And while any library can lead us to a new literary discovery, the following 14 epic libraries around the globe take typical book appreciation to a whole new level.
Caitlin Etherton is a poet and farmer currently based in Richmond, Virginia.