SSoP Podcast Episode 48 — Bookshops: Mostly Paper and Magic

SSoP Podcast Episode 48 — Bookshops: Mostly Paper and Magic

Monday, 20 March, 2023

A bookshop is a special (maybe enchanted) place found all over the world and staffed by booksellers who seem to have a preternatural ability to put just the right book in your hands.

People have been buying and selling books since about 300 BCE. During the latter part of the Roman Empire, when all the best homes included a personal library, the book trade was boomin’. Back then, shops posted a list of titles for sale on their doors.

The kind of store we think of when someone says ‘bookshop’ was initially tied closely to printing. The first booksellers were also editors and printers who made the books, then sold them to the reading public. Eventually, those specialties split apart: Publishers worked with authors to create books, and booksellers placed them into the hands of readers.

And we’re all better for it.

In this episode, we talk about the world’s oldest bookshop and discuss some remarkable bookstores around the world, including a barefoot bookshop in paradise and another in Scotland’s National Book Town. We also learn about a shocking bookstore-related medical phenomenon! Then we recommend great books that took us inside the world of bookshops, including a haunting literary novel, a throwback detective story, two bookish miscellanies, a screwball comedy-thriller mashup, and historical fiction set in post-WWII London starring women with moxie.

Here are the books about bookshops we recommend on the show:

Books, Transcript, and More

For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend, plus a full transcript and the other cool stuff we talked about, visit the Episode 48 show notes.


Subscribe to our podcast so you never miss a must-read book or thrilling destination!

If we're not available on your favorite podcast-listening platform, send us an email!

Top image courtesy of joreks/Shutterstock.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

What's better than a charming indie bookshop with a cozy café next door? A bookshop with a café right inside. Or a café that sells a few carefully curated books. We love bookshops and cafés, is what we're saying.
Forget the hard sell. A few key phrases will probably prove this delightful adventure is right for you: 24-hour bookstore. Mysterious library. Secret society. Loyal friendship. Flirty romance. Extreme bookishness.
Typewronger Books in Edinburgh is the bookish retreat of our dreams: a cozy shop that only has the good stuff with a literary magician behind the counter. He looks into your soul and gives you the right book.
It's a readers' paradise: buttery scones and shortbread and tea, a windy landscape with the scent of the sea, and bookshops. Oh, the bookshops! Every genre, new and used, and a bookstore cat. What else could you need?
One of the treats of travel is browsing the shelves of a bookstore in a far-flung locale. It feels both completely foreign and blessedly familiar all at once. Add Atlantis Books on Santorini to your must-visit list.
What makes an already fantastic place even better? A bookshop, of course. And when it's a lovingly preserved historic shop with a friendly bookseller (in tweed) with stunning views out the windows, we're all in.
The Brattle Book Shop has been in business since 1825, and today, the unassuming three-story brick building is packed with more than 250,000 used books, maps, prints, postcards, and other paper collectibles.
The Waterstones in Bradford, England is a cathedral of books. You can browse the stacks of carefully curated books under soaring ceilings and stained glass windows, then enjoy a cuppa in the balcony café.
If you're looking for a zine about awesome pizza, indie magazines, or a Q&A with your favorite graphic novelist, Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago is your kind of place. Fulfilling all your weird book needs since 1991.
Daunt Books Marylebone is like Strong Sense of Place became sentient and took up residence in an Edwardian bookshop. Its collection of curated books, stained glass window, reading nooks make it a must-visit bookshop. is a new online book retailer that shares its revenue with local, independent bookstores. It's bridging the significant gap between online sales and the neighborhood bookshop (you love) down the street.
One of our favorite ways to mingle with locals in new-to-us cities is among the shelves of a neighborhood bookshop — it's even better when they include English-language books. These two in Stockholm are must-visits.
Pssst... how'd you like to sleep INSIDE a bookshelf?! That's exactly what you'll get to do at Book and Bed Tokyo, a collection of six hostels devoted to reading (and a little bit of sleeping).

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.