Covering three hundred bookshops across six continents this is a book you can dip in and out of or read cover to cover. Being an Anglophile I enjoyed being back in London and picturing the shops on Charing Cross Road and Cecil Court. On page nineteen, author Vivian French shares her love of one of my favourite shops, Persephone Books.
'Generally I'm a big fan of the Persephone classics and I actually managed to persuade three people to buy them whilst trying my hand at bookselling. My favourite is Miss Ranskill Comes Home. All of them are beautifully made.'
I can attest to that particular edition being an excellent read.
Books are a great source of joy and comfort but for Ellie Potten, who developed agoraphobia while in university, they proved to be a lifesaver. Her mother left her job to care for Ellie full-time. Through discussions on choosing a different approach to earning a living they began to dream about running a bookshop. In 2009, when the economic climate should have frightened them, they started looking at tourist towns and real estate. One thing led to another and in due course, Ellie was running a bookshop in the Peak District. The shop is still open but under new management which really isn't the point.
Another favourite story from the book features a shop called Ripping Yarns situated opposite Highgate tube station, The lineage of this shop is fascinating but the part that I loved most was about a woman who called the shop because she had seen a copy of a nature book she had owned as a child. Her mother had sold the book at a jumble sale forty years ago and the woman wanted a copy for her grandchildren. Days later she called the shop in tears. The woman told the shop owner than through some miracle the book that arrived in the mail was the very copy she used to own, still bearing the inscription from her aunt.
Dotted throughout the book are pages dedicated to 'Bookish Facts' such as General Ho Chien banning Alice in Wonderland in 1931 because he thought animals talking as if they were people was offensive. I find it slightly ironic that his name means 'dog' in French?
One of Toronto's best bookshops is called Monkey's Paw. I've written before about the in-house Biblio-Mat that is a converted vending machine that turns out a random title when you deposit a toonie (two dollars).
'Far and away the most notable Biblio-Mat customer is a man named Vincent Lui, who bought one book a week from the machine for all of 2013. He read every book - and no matter what the title or subject - from cover to cover, and wrote a review of each on his blog (therandombookmachine.com).'
One of the many charming anecdotes in The Bookshop Book comes from Mongolia. It warmed my heart and made me swoon a bit, if I'm honest, it's about the man who bought his wife a bookshop as a wedding gift. The couple opened their shop in 2006.
A handful of years ago it seemed like every other person was buying an ereader or talking about buying one. I would stand at the circulation counter of my library and watch a stream of people walk past carrying their device, looking for answers about downloading books. With a 'if you can't beat them, join them' attitude we stocked different brands so customers could try each one before buying. The list of people on hold for these devices was a long one. While ereaders have their place and their fans, I'm pleased to see that small tsunami receding rather than picking up momentum. The Bookshop Book is a love story for those of us who connect with paper and ink, and find comfort in shops filled with treasure...and sometimes even a cat or two.
I'll give the last work to a bookshop owner in Singapore...'I am the Joker that says, 'Bring it on!'. As a tech-driven country, we are well-known to be early adopters when it comes to new tech gadgets.....'So, yes, if it helps to increase the readership numbers, let's get them hooked on reading first, and we, these magical creatures called booksellers, we will stealthily convert them into print-lovers, too.'
Avril English, mother-in-law of Biblio-Mat inventor Craig Small