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.
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.
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.
Annette Simon is the author of Spine Poems. Here’s her website.
And these two movies:
Welcome to the Bookshop by Jen Campbell
And this is the quote that inspired the title of this episode:
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