There are few things better in life than having an excuse to buy a book. To lovingly select your latest literary companion, take in the scent of fresh pages, or (if you are hunting old treasures) regarding a lovingly thumbed gem. It’s like new possibilities have opened up before you. You are about to embark on a new adventure, discover a new world.
NZ Bookshop Day on Saturday 26 October, is the ideal day to yield to all of our book buying impulses. Bookshops all around the country will celebrate this special day with a range of events and competitions including some cracker events and deals at Christchurch's Scorpio Books, like 15 staff picks for $15, a Nevermoor party, and a Tea Dragon Drawing Workshop.
I know, I’m a librarian, so of course I celebrate the idea of having a vast collection of books available for all to share, but there are times, (mainly when I’m trying to unsuccessfully quote a wondrous passage from a book I only just read, only to mangle it beyond recognition) when I wish I had that little nugget of wisdom on my shelf at home.
It’s not as though you have to be constantly reading your books, sometimes it’s just about knowing they’re there, waiting for you, like faithful friends. As Ernest Hemingway once wisely said: "there is no friend so loyal as a book" and I love Leah Price's observation that: "A self without a shelf remains cryptic; a home without books naked."
Oscar Wilde would tear off the tops of his pages as he read, quite literally consuming their wisdom (definitely do not try this at home). Winston Churchill too celebrated the nearness, indeed the companionship of his personal collection:
“If you cannot read all your books... fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.”
Christchurch of course has its fair share of bookshop marvels to start or add to any collection. I remember going to Hornby Books when I was a kid, a wonderful second hand book shop with all the Enid Blyton and Snoopy comics a girl could ask for (this was the integral thing for my sisters and I at that age). I remember the excitement of being able to swap those pesky abridged editions of the classics for wonderful new adventures, and sometimes finding I only had a dollar fifty to pay at the finish (enough for a cream donut at the nearby bakery - a sad indictment on inflation/how old I feel now/how often I bought cream donuts that I still remember).
I remember hunting feverishly through Smiths bookshop for those rare finds you could guarantee would be there... somewhere... somehow hidden amongst those magical walls of book heaven. Then there were the brand new books I would longingly regard at the University Bookshop or Scorpio Books, the latest editions of Jane Austen or Bronte novels that looked so much grander than the ones I’d bought last year. Now of course, I really, genuinely, needed these new versions in my life, as of course, I did the new book on the Russian tsars that would beautifully complement the five others I had on the Russian tsars, and the eyewateringly expensive Taschen book on the impressionists that was far less expensive than those other eyewateringly expensive art books on the impressionists...
There was also a dangerous period in my life where I worked at Paper Plus. Probably needless to say that my bookshelves and savings still feel the monumental effects of this.
If a bookshop spree isn't good for your budget, or your willpower, then why not live vicariously through a book about bookshops from your local library instead? Here, with great difficulty, are my five 'books about bookstores' picks for this special day. This wonderful genre deserves a day of celebration in itself but I guess my list of books will have to be less compulsive than my book buying. Happy NZ Bookshop Day!
Shaun Bythell's hilarious diary charts a year in the life of the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland. It is one of the ultimate books about books, packed with stories of eccentric book buyers, sound book recommendations, and accounts of stock purchase trips to auction houses and estates. With its wonderfully barbed and ever-entertaining style, this is a diary enthusiast's and book shop lover's dream.
I am ever indebted to the wise customer who recommended this novel to me. Written by best selling Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 'The Shadow of the Wind' tells the story of a book by the same title, rescued from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona. Its rescuer, Daniel, the son of an Antiquarian book dealer, now must do all he can to protect this last copy, despite the dark secrets and danger it has now uncovered. With its dramatic plot of tragedy, lust, and gothic ruins, 'The Shadow of the Wind' is also a beautifully written ode to literature.
Jean Perdu is the proud owner of a Parisian bookstore beautifully situated on a restored barge. He has the gift of bibliotherapy, always knowing the exact book to soothe the troubled souls of his patrons, and yet he seems unable to 'cure' himself. 21 years after the love of his life left him, he finally brings himself to open the letter she wrote to him all those years ago, inspiring him to set sail on his aquatic bookstore in search of her and his memories again. A beautifully written novel in which you can almost envisage the breathtaking scenery, 'the Little Paris Bookshop' is a moreish read of love, life, and books.
These wonderful letters from the twenty year correspondence between New Yorker Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, book buyer for Antiquarian bookstore, Marks & co, range from topics as varied as Queen Elizabeth's coronation, to a good Yorkshire Pudding recipe, to disappointment that the story of Samuel Pepys being chased by his wife with a red hot poker, was omitted from a version of his diary. A fun and touching read of friendship from afar and the power of literature in bringing people together.
Not strictly a 'book about bookshops', this beautiful miscellany celebrates the wonders of books in general, from quirky stories about authors, to the anatomy of a book, to the world's greatest bookstores. This is a book to dip in and out of, to marvel at, to cheer your heart, let's face it, it is a book to own.