Review: The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell (4/5)

Wednesday 12 November 2014
Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops.

Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France. Meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains. Meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine.
And that’s just the beginning.

From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole).

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world. Well, it's also a love letter to bibliophiles around the world too. Prepare to lose yourself in this book as you read about some of the most wonderful and beautiful bookshops in the world. The media is constantly focused on the closures of libraries and independent bookshops, and rightly so, it's a travesty us book lovers wish we could prevent but it's not all that often a book comes along celebrating books and the places they are sold in this way. But there are bookshops around the world still thriving, and still managing to stay open despite the likes of Amazon and supermarket discounts taking over. The book does at times focus on the difficulties bookshops have faced and continue to face, with insights from booksellers, bookshop owners and people from the world of publishing. There's also chapters from various authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Ian Rankin and Bill Bryson discussing what bookshops mean to them, what they love about them and how reading and writing has changed their lives.

Stories connect people: I want to share the stories of three hundred wonderful book shops across six continents, and thoughts from famous authors about their favourite book shops, too. These days, we've got booksellers in cities, in deserts, and in the middle of a rainforest; we've got travelling book shops, and book shops underground. We've got book shops in barns, in caravans and in converted Victorian railway stations. We've even got booksellers selling books in the middle of a war.
     Are book shops still relevant? They certainly are.
     All book shops are full of stories, and stories want to be heard.

Will there come a time when all of our shopping is done online? When all bookshops close and our only choice of choosing a book in the real world comes from the charts in ASDA or Tesco? It seems almost frightening to consider. We all love a bargain and admittedly 95% of my book shopping is done via Amazon, yet you still can't beat walking into a bookshop, the smell, the warm and friendly atmosphere and the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of books on the shelves is a staggering and wonderful sight to behold. This is the story of the feelings walking into a bookshop evokes. I can remember the first time I got my library card, the first time I nagged my parents to take me into a bookshop and the many times over the years I continued to drag them in to buy books. It's hard to imagine a world where other children can't grow up doing the same thing.

Bookish Facts:

Part of the M6 toll road in the UK is made out of pulped Mills & Boon novels. A reported 2.5 million recycled books were mixed in with asphalt and Tarmac to create the road surface.
In 2008, Gabriel Levinson started spending his weekends cycling around public parks in Chicago on his custom-built Book Bike. The bike had a box built around it that folded out to display 300 titles. Gabriel have books away to anyone who promised they would read them.

There are so many stories in this book I'd love to quote and talk about, but the enjoyment really comes from discovering them for yourself. I do have a few favourites I will mention later in the review. The book contains a plethora of Bookish Facts and Some Wonderful Things which are fun and interesting anecdotes about the book world. There's also a brief history about bookshops such as Waterstones and Foyles.

There's so many bookshops that stood out as favourites in the book yet some of my absolute favourites are:
  • Silverdell bookshop in Kirkham which is also an ice cream parlour where when they have a book signing a signature ice cream for the author is made. Books and ice cream? As long as it doesn't drip onto the pages what could be better? 
  • The Book Barge, Lichfield which is a bookshop on a houseboat inspired by Rosie and Jim and it sounded absolutely perfect. I'd rather be on it by myself reading books and travelling along a canal rather than share it with customers but it's still a pretty exciting place to buy books! 
  • London is a city full of bookshops but the ones listed here were quite brief, covering bookshops around the world however means you can't list them all! Camden Lock Books is mentioned though which is one of the capital's most iconic bookshops.
  • The World's Smallest Bookstore in Toronto which is inside a ten foot by ten foot cabin and all the books cost $3 and are paid for via an honesty box (hard to imagine this working in certain parts of England) and you also get a leaflet entitled: 'Why I Love Books'. 
  • The Book Nook in Texas which has a second hand section where you can fill a bag for $13 and the bookshop donates a box of books to troops serving overseas for every bag sold. 
  • The Underground Bookshop in Coober Pedy, South Australia which is an underground bookshop inside an old opal mine. 
  • Brazenhead Books in New York, a controversial bookshop that technically doesn't exist. You have to email or phone the owner to arrange a visit!
The book was either very short or just that good that I read it quickly. I believe the final print copy has pictures but unfortunately the NetGalley copy didn't. That said though I'd love to pick up an actual copy of this book as it'd be a nice book to own. The book is one of those that you could pick up at random intervals and read a chunk of, or leave lying around for people visiting you at home to pick up and browse through. This book is simply a must read for book lovers and one that comes highly recommended by me. Liverpool doesn't have all that many bookshops which is a shame for such a cultural city, and this book has left me wanting to travel the world visiting the many wonderful places mentioned in this book.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy via NetGalley.


  1. Books require someone to read the book. Some feels that if you don't have a group of readers you don't have anything except a bunch of paper with type on it.
    top 10 must read novels

  2. I've got this on my shelves waiting to be read - looks great. (I read Jen's 'Weird Things People Say in Bookshops' a couple of years ago, so am hoping for more of the same book-ish fun.)

    This is the first time I've been over to your blog (I'm a bit of a hermit blogger myself) and I really like it! The design is really clean and your style is good - nice to stumble across another UK reviewer's site to add to my list to follow. Keep up the good work!


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