18 Bookshops by Anne Scott

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

What makes a good bookshop? Well having books is a good start. To be serious though, a well-curated selection of different genres that are drawn from mainstream and back catalogues and staff that are readers and know and love books. But what makes a good bookshop a great bookshop? That requires a little something extra, be it the selection of books, the bookseller or just the location of the shop.

From her first bookshelf that was originally an orange box and the happy memories of going with her brother to the bookshop each Saturday where he bought a Penguin paperback, Anne Scott has always had a thing about bookshops. In this beautifully produced volume, she has picked 18 of her favourite bookshops that she has developed a relationship with over her years.

They are mostly based in the around the UK, though one American one and another Irish one have snuck in, each has been chosen for a variety of reasons. Some because they were the places she discovered poets that other bookshops never even considered stocking, others have that quiet calm as if they were cathedrals to the written word. There are bookshops where the books were placed on easels, with pages opened out to show the art within and a London bookshop that sells children’s books, has ivy curling around the door and a secret garden within.

Sometimes, as here, a Bookshop may be defined forever in a life by a single found book.

I must be honest and say that I had only come across one of these bookshops, the rest were a mystery to me. But what a mystery though, Scott writes about these places in a dreamy evocative way, linking back to memories of discovering books and authors that would play a part in her life. It did make me think though about what bookshops would I include if I was choosing 18 that had made an impression on me as a reader. I really missed having page numbers, but I get why they did it, as each essay about the bookshop is short enough to read in a few minutes. If you have a thing about bookshops then I can recommend this as a book to lose yourself in.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    How interesting. Hm, I’d say Foyles in London, Hall’s in Tunbridge Wells (second-hand books), Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, the Hospice Bookshop in Stratford and The Cinema Bookshop and The Sensible Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye off the top of my head.

    • Paul

      I am not sure what bookshops my 18 would include, but probably:
      Gullivers, Wimborne
      West Moors Bookshop
      Oxfam Swanage
      Books for Cooks, London

      • Liz Dexter

        I have already forgotten Edge of the World in Penzance and the Oxfam in Oxford!

        • Paul

          And bookshops yet undiscovered

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