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.
Read the full transcript of Bookshops: Mostly Paper and Magic.
Perhaps you’d like to listen to enjoy the ambient sound of a bookshop while you browse these links.
The oldest operating bookstore in the world is Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Best Bookshop in Paradise: The open-air bookshop at the Soneva Resorts. Here’s the scoop on the barefoot booksellers, plus the barefoot booksellers blog and Instagram.
Spookiest Bookshop: Butcher Cabin Books in Louisville, Kentucky. Here’s the website, Instagram, and a news story about the opening.
Bookshop Most Likely to Offer You a Mince Pie: Typewronger Books in Edinburgh, Scotland. Read our love letter to Typewronger Books.
Bookshop That Can Make Your Dreams of Owning a Bookshop Come True: The Open Book in Wigtown, Scotland. Here’s the Airbnb listing for the Open Book, and the waiting list where you can add your name. Perhaps you’d like to visit the Wigtown Book Festival! Here’s our photo album from our stay in Wigtown and Anne Bogel’s interview with a Wigtown bookseller on the What Should I Read Next? podcast.
Happy World Storytelling Day! More info here.
Statement 1: After entering a bookstore, some people feel the overwhelming need to poop. The phenomena is called Reader’s Digestion. Read more about the Mariko Aoki Phenomenon on Wikipedia and Men’s Health.
Statement 2: There’s a bookstore in Japan that sells one book a week. Read more about Morioka Shoten in The Guardian and the design firm Takram.
John Dunning is the author of the Cliff Janeway series of bookshop noir. Here’s his old-school website.
Natalie Jenner is the author of Bloomsbury Girls. Here’s her website and a discussion of her book:
Juliet Stevenson is one of Mel’s favorite audiobook narrators.
The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century is an 1827 three-volume novel written by Jane C. Loudon, and the Wikipedia page is informative. You can read the book on Gutenberg.org.
Jane Mount is the author of Bibliophile. Here’s her website and an interview with Hawaii Public Radio.
Annette Simon is the author of Spine Poems. Here’s her website.
Nova Jacobs is the author of The Last Equation of Isaac Severy. Here’s her website and an interview with Publisher’s Weekly.
Mel mentioned two previous episodes of our podcast: Chicago: Baseball, Hot Dogs, Industry, and Infamy and Spain: Valencia, Velázquez, and Vermouth.
And these two movies:
Welcome to the Bookshop by Jen Campbell
Jen Campbell is an award-winning poet and author of 12 books including The Bookshop Book and Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.
And this is the quote that inspired the title of this episode:
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