It’s Love Your Bookshop Day 2019, and I’m celebrating with a fitting topic – the Five Best Books Set in Bookshops according to the world’s soppiest bookshop tragic, me!
Read on for a never-to-be-repeated treat, my ode to bookshops – in verse. I kid you not!
Who hasn’t imagined finding treasure, mystery, love—or murder—in the stacks? What bibliophile hasn’t scoured their bookshop for consolation, clarity, and courage to change? Bookshops—like museums, theatres, cemeteries, terminals, and libraries—are liminal spaces that crackle with potentiality. These places don’t just suggest metamorphosis; they demand it. Readers know they’re in for a fun ride.
Bookshops not only provide a cool backdrop for fiction, they equip the characters with tools and resources—for better or worse. Paper is so fragile: incendiary yet somehow enduring. Ink is both indelible and ephemeral. And bookshelves rise like stairs to the heavens or plunge deep into darkness. A bookshop is a trove of possibility.
Enough spruiking. Here are the goods in no particular order because, gasp, they’re all delightful…
5 Fabulous Books about Bookshops
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
If you love books about books, this is a must-read. Also good for the chronically broken-hearted, frustrated globetrotters, diehard francophiles, and, most deserving of pity, aspiring authors. The characters are so lovely I wish they were my friends, and the settings are so rich and enticing my bucket list tripled in length. I truly hope that somewhere in the world there is a literary apothecary and that it’s in a barge.
P.S. If the idea of a literary pharmacist appeals to you, you will be happy to learn that this book includes a short list of “prescriptions” at the end.
P.P.S Australia has its own bibliotherapist at Byron Bibliotherapy. Check it out here.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Here, we have bookshop-meets-cemetery to really ramp up the liminality. The Shadow of the Wind starts with the line,
“I remember the day when my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Put that in you pipe and smoke it. If that line doesn’t make you see pixies riding itty-bitty unicorns under glitter rainbows, squash this morsel on top: Barcelona. Now draw in deeply and hold… Yeah, baby. Pixies in full Technicolor.
The Shadow of the Wind is achingly beautiful and darkly atmospheric from that line on. The style is epic and the language lush. And don’t forget the bookshops, anguished authors, and the smell of smoke…
The back matter includes a map of the story’s sites in Barcelona for the literary traveller, but that won’t be interesting to anyone, right?
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Get ready for a rip-roaring read in the gothic-mystery genre. At its core it is a story about secrets and their power to shape lives and mould identity. Another theme explores family loyalties, especially the mysterious bond between twins. If mystery, manors, madness and bookshops are your thing, you will go gah-gah for this book. Twisty-twist Warning!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This is one freaky bookshop. Its strange customers shop at night, and the books are written in code. It’s a little like The Da Vinci Code for geeky bookworms (or bookish geeks?). It’s weird and wonderful and very exciting. Pairs well with hot toddies and cinnamon toast fingers.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
A sweet story in the epistolary style with unforgettable characters and, yes, a bookshop! Funny, heart-wrenching, and memorable.
Now for something different…
…Here are my thoughts on bookshops told poetically.
Cross the threshold,
And the spell is cast.
Incantation dances among the motes,
Colliding, combusting, scattering.
Scents drift on draughts,
Linger in the stacks:
Writers’ tears and poets’ sighs,
Lost memory, found worlds,
Smouldering erudition and rising hope,
Musty, dusty, inky, mad.
Pages rustle against the hush.
Another refugee finds repose.
Outside, the whirlpool rages round and round,
All doppler-blurred horns and hurry-scurry.
—Ali Stegert, 2019
Love Your Bookshop Day 2019
So, maybe you’re wondering: what’s the point of this gush-fest about bookshops anyway?
Saturday, 10 August 2019 is a day dedicated to the love of Australian bookshops. Book browsers, page sniffers, and story gorgers young and old are welcome. All across the country, booksellers will hold special events—workshops, author talks, story time, and more.
Harry Hartog Booksellers Maroochydore, my local bookshop, has a fabulous line-up of events.
Don’t miss story time with my writer-buddy Debbie Smith, author, who’s reading her new book, If You Meet an Elephant (illustrated by my lovely illustrator-friend Emma Middleton; published by Little Steps Books).
Local bookshop photos by Ali Stegert