Monday, 13 October 2014

Book 39 of 2014: The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

I don’t normally review books out of the order that I read them, that’s why I was reviewing Christmas books back in April, or on a Monday for that matter! But The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell was a book that I was very excited to read and so decided to share my review for it sooner rather than later.

You can visit Jen’s blog here, she wrote both Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops. Her latest book is a celebrations of bookshops in all shapes and sizes. It’s a lovely chunky book full of stories of magical bookshops from all around the world as well as interviews from their owners, customers and authors. Add to that the fact that it’s written in Jen’s characteristic style and it’s basically like sitting down with an old friend and sharing an almost three hundred page conversation.

The Bookshop Book is the official book of the ‘Books Are My Bag’ campaign for this year and it was released on the 2nd of October. Jen is a great proponent of the independent bookshop, so I’ve made it a bit of a tradition of ordering each of her books from my very own local independent bookshop. I picked it up on Friday on the way to meet my Mum and within minutes I was twenty pages in, constantly sharing little bits with Mr Click.

I don’t think I could pick a favourite story from this book. Each and every story is in there because it’s about an interesting bookshop and the only thing I found myself wishing was that there was more detail about some of the shops, even the ones who got several pages devoted to them. I especially enjoyed the stories of the bookshops that Jen has visited herself, they had a lovely personal touch letting you know exactly what she liked about the places. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the stories of bookshops from further afield either though.

In a way The Bookshop Book is a lot like a bookshop itself. You know the really good bookshops that seem kind of small from the outside but when you go inside they seem to go back and up from the street for miles. You wander around finding new and interesting things that you never expected to come across. The Bookshop Book is like that. You expect it to be a book about bookshops, but hidden inside are little sections with Bookish Facts and Wonderful Things and photos and interviews and you think just one more page but then something on the next one catches your eye and you have to carry on reading.

I wasn’t sure how much the author interviews would add to the stories of the bookshops, but they really helped to add to the message of what important and wonderful places bookshops are. The authors all spoke of how bookshops were magical places to them when they were younger, what a treat a trip to the bookshop was for them, how they’ve been influenced or inspired by them, and what their dream bookshop would be like. It was interesting to see how many of these things were echoed not only amongst the authors but also amongst the booksellers themselves. It seems that bookshops evoke a special sort of feeling in many people, most of them booklovers I suppose, and perhaps that’s why they’re still around when so many other sorts of shops are struggling.

I do have to admit that I harbour a secret desire to have a bookshop of my own. Reading through this book gave me all sorts of ideas of what I would love to do if I got the chance to open a little secondhand bookshop. I also can’t help but think that perhaps this book needs a companion book at some point, with so many libraries under threat these days I really hope that someone can write The Library Book to help remind everyone just how important they are to us as well.

The Bookshop Book is definitely one of those books I’m going to return to in the future; either to read from cover to cover again like I did this time, or to dip into to remind myself of some of those amazing people and places selling books around the world.

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