i recently finished jen campbell’s the bookshop book, and in addition to inspiring me to move to scotland and open up a secondhand bookshop, it also provided a number of great passages about reading and the beauty of books, many of them from bookshop owners and the writers who frequent them. below are the lines and bookish facts that caught my eye while i read.
bookshops are full of stories. not just stories on shelves, but those hidden away. there are the stories of bookshop owners, and all the books they read that made them fall in love with reading. there are the stories of authors, and why they wrote their first book. there are the stories of second-hand books, and all the people who owned them. and there’s the story of every single customer who walks through the door. we all love stories, with their sense of mystery and adventure // xi
bookish fact — the word abibliophobia [noun] is the fear of running out of things to read // 18
‘whatever your problems, a book is a point where you can stop in a moving world’ // kirsty logan, 24
‘i suppose i’ve got too many books, but how can you turn books away?’ // tony vettese, 26
‘a good bookshop is not just about selling books from shelves, but reaching out into the world and making a difference. people never lose the sense of bookshop as a place where you can discover something’ // david almond, 32
bookish fact — in earlier times, the maiming of authors was a not uncommon practice. in the sixteenth century, critics would often cut off the nose the ears or the hands of authors whose books they felt were too outspoken. following the thirty years’ war in the seventeenth century, theodore reinking wrote a book whose anti-swedish sentiments caused such outrage in the country that he was thrown in jail and given an ultimaturm: eat your words, literally, or we’ll cut off your head. theodore was smart and decided to eat his own words. he turned his book into a paste, and drank the whole thing // 33
‘we don’t do this enough: go into bookshops and touch the books. we should choose them in the same way we choose friends’ // rachel joyce, 55
this is, i think, what all good bookshops should be like: the tangible, bookish expression of the people who own them // 56
‘all books hold a history. i love second-hand books for that fact: you just hold them in your hand and they’re full of story, apart from what’s written inside them’ // ali smith, 62
‘the days when we sit down with a book so good we don’t get up until it’s read – those are some of the best days of our lives’ // ali smith, 63
‘books are important, so very important. they teach you things; they show you different views of the world. you can’t help having a soft spot for books, and everything that they stand for’ // brian aldiss, 72
‘i think there are as many versions of a story as there are people who read it’ // nathan filer, 77
bookish fact — for the last thirteen years of his life, casanova was a librarian // 117
‘today books for me mean looking at the world, learning about it, seeing it through the eyes of others. they are a brilliant device for shape-shifting, as we can slip into the skin of authors from other times, other cultural backgrounds, brilliant minds who give us a new perspective on life and the world – something we all need from time to time. books give us the unique chance to talk to the dead, listen to their stories, use their words as a time machine, a flying carpet to faraway lands. books make time and space meaningless; they give us witty and wise companions; they teach us that our worries and fears are shared by others – and they give us words for what we sometimes cannot express’ // cornelia funke, 143
‘[bookshops] offer a tangible experience of human creativity’ // lewis mcguffie, 153
‘i think bookshops remind people that we need to slow down – to stop and appreciate other human beings, read about other people’s lives, about new discoveries and past misadventures. there are no gender or age restrictions in bookshops, just a whole lot of soul’ // kerry-leigh snel, 161
‘a life without stories is no life at all’ // mervyn sloman, 165
‘you see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. they are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. they are simply put, the best of places’ // christopher sheedy, 179
‘i realised that there was something tremendously exciting when it came to reading, and i still believe that, in terms of entertainment, if you find a good book then nothing can match it’ // bill bryson, 198
‘i just want a porch with a view, lots of good books, and a glass or two of wine’ // valerie koehler, 204
bookish fact — the oldest written recipe we know of is a recipe for beer. it was found on a mesopotamian clay tablet dating back 4,000 years, and at the time people believed the recipe had been given to them by the god enki, father of ninkasi, the sumerian goddess of beer // 251
‘books are one of the greatest gifts mankind has given itself. they are knowledge, understanding, comfort, imagination; they are the original radio, the original television, the original internet. real printed paper books have a character, a soul which lives within the feel and smell and sound of the pages, and this could never possibly be re-created on a screen. the various devices available for ebooks may allow a person to carry more books with them, and in many ways that is a good thing, but it in many ways is a bad thing. it takes aways the character of that one book: its magic is lost. perhaps that is the best way to say it: printed books are magical, and real bookshops keep that magic alive‘ // john, 256
we’ve always used stories as a way to pass on our history, as a way to explain things in life that we don’t understand. we use them to make us feel connected to everything around us, and to help us escape to another time or place.
bookshops across the world are full of these stories.
from travelling booksellers and undercover bookshops, to pop-up stalls and community hubs, walking into a good bookshop is like walking into another zone. these places are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers. they are dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders and safe places. they are full of infinite possibilities, and tales worth taking home.
because we’re in the middle of the desert or in the heart of a city, on the top of a mountain or on an underground train: having good stories to keep us company can mean the whole world
which passage is your favorite? i honestly love all of them and am now plotting visits to all of the bookshops mentioned.