5 Fabulous Books About Bookshops

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.

What bibliophile hasn’t scoured the bookshop for consolation, clarity, and courage to change?

Now for something different…

…Here are my thoughts on bookshops told poetically.

Bookshop Magic

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).

Image Credits

Book sign by Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

Ladder Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

Woman in stacks Photo by Maia Habegger on Unsplash

Magic Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Local bookshop photos by Ali Stegert

14 Thoughts

  1. Hi Ali,
    Loved your ode to bookshops … and books about bookshops.
    Particularly enjoyed reading your verse, Bookshop Magic.
    Wishing you a book-filled day on “Love your Bookshop day.”
    PS Congratulations to Debbie and Emma on their new release, “If you meet an Elephant”.
    Warmly,
    Karen x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ali …
    Great post my literary friend. I particularly loved your ode in verse! Thank you too for your lovely words in favour of Em and I. We very much appreciate your support and when it’s your turn, we’ll be right there backing you, too.

    I only have Charing Cross Road from your top five, but I do have a couple about book shops that aren’t on your list; one is a favorite of mine called Book Ends by Jane Green and a brand new book that I bought from Rosetta Books in Maleny, called The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell. I’ve just got to finish my current read, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and then I’ll begin the newby. I’ll let you know what it’s like after I’m done. ☺️🐘🐹

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Such a wonderful post to honor your bookshop day. Thanks for the book recommendations. I really need to try Shadow of the Wind. I’ve heard such great things about that book.
    Last year, I read I read “The Dairy of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell. It was a wonderful read and quite funny as well. I felt as if I visited Bythell’s bookshop every time I read from his book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a bookish post for a bookish day. Thanks for the thought you put into this and I love the verse that captures the elusive feeling of hope and escapism so often found in a bookshop. Some books to add to my reading list too and now..I just want to go to a bookshop.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.