I think that Jen Campbell and I would get on well if we were to meet in person. I could recognise that she gets the same giddy feeling upon entering a bookshop that I do. She spends the book chronicling creative bookshops across the globe. Unsurprisingly given that this is a British-based campaign, The Bookshop Book has a strong UK and Europe focus but the other continents get a decent coverage too. I was pleased to see some of my long-term favourites get a mention – I listed my Top Ten Bookshops last year – and Broadhursts in particular is just a real joy of a place to buy books from. But. Hmm.
I think for me, bookshops are linked to such strong emotions. When I was a little girl growing up in York, The Puffin Bookshop was my favourite place in the world. Across the road was The Penguin Bookshop full of boring books of the sort that my mother might be interested in, but the Puffin Bookshop, as far as I was concerned, was where it was at. When it closed down, I cried. Going to a bookshop, particularly with book-buying funds in hand, made me happy. On my year abroad when I lived in the middle of nowhere and was unspeakably lonely, The Archipel Des Mots kept me sane. At university in St Andrews, I never forgot to check around the second-hand bookshops towards the end of the year when the leavers would sell their books (idiots). I am a bookshop veteran. Reading about bookshops that other people are excited about is not the same thing. It would be different if I were going on a bookshop tour of the UK, then this would be an indispensable handbook. But reading descriptions of places I haven’t been always feels a bit strange to me, it’s the main reason I’ve never really gotten into travel writing.
This is a real passion project, it is packed full of author interviews and ‘fun facts’ related to reading (my personal favourite is to the left) but I am both glad that Jen Campbell has written The Bookshop Book and also glad that I did not buy it myself. I love books, the feel of them, the smell of them and how they seem different after reading compared to before even if you manage not to break the spine. I am glad to see that love of books shared, the joy of finding new ones, the satisfaction of sharing the ones you have enjoyed with others.
The best and worst thing about bookshops is that upon entering you may find what you were not looking for, the bonus surprise books that you cannot leave the shop without. Shops like The Works or Bargain Books don’t have it, it only comes with love and The Bookshop Book feels like a simultaneous battle cry and celebration of all those who have ever jumped up and down in delight because their friend liked the book they gave them. Reading this made me truly believe that despite a changing world, the bookshop may be battered but it is not beaten. I just didn’t feel like it was a read-more-than-once kind of book.
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Published by Hachette UK on October 2nd 2014
Genres: Social Science, Sociology, General, Fiction
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