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Country Life Every Week - - Books -

Edited by Henry Hitch­ings Pushkin Press (£12.99)

this inspiring col­lec­tion ex­plores the love of book­shops shared by many bib­lio­philes. it is nu­anced, per­sonal and re­fresh­ingly global.

arm­chair trav­ellers will en­joy ac­com­pa­ny­ing Elif Shafak around is­tan­bul’s book­shops, as she re­calls buy­ing Euro­pean lit­er­a­ture on that side of the city, hop­ping on the ferry to counter-cul­tural es­tab­lish­ments on the asian side and also fre­quent­ing the ‘ram­shackle huts’ of sa­haflar, sec­ond-hand book­shops. alaa al aswany rec­ol­lects a sign­ing in a cairo book­shop, where he en­cour­aged his read­ers to as­sem­ble in tahrir Square: ‘that is how i wit­nessed the start of the revo­lu­tion’.

Many of the writ­ers de­scribe a long re­la­tion­ship with a cer­tain book­shop. ali Smith writes of her child­hood dis­cov­er­ies at in­ver­ness’s newly opened leakey’s and how, 37 years later, she’s ‘still spend­ing my Satur­day money’ there.

usu­ally, these re­la­tion­ships are forged with mo­ments of dis­cov­ery. dan­ish au­thor dorthe nors tells the pow­er­ful story of her grand­mother, whose hus­band sent her to a book­shop to buy genre fic­tion, but ‘book­man Erich­sen’ per­suaded her to buy work by a no­bel prize-win­ner in­stead. this pur­chase be­comes proof that ‘we have the po­ten­tial to be­come greater than the role we’ve been ex­pected to play’; a good book­seller can foster this by act­ing as ‘lit­er­a­ture’s out­stretched hand’.

iain Sin­clair notes it is ‘of­ten a shock­ing thing to en­counter a book­shop troglodyte in the open air’ and, fre­quently, book­shops are shown to be grot­tos in which od­dballs thrive, such as Michael dirda, who con­fesses to tak­ing a pocket torch to sec­ond-hand book­shops ‘to il­lu­mi­nate dark­ened spines on shad­owy lower shelves’.

yvonne ad­hi­ambo owuor pin­points what i, per­son­ally, love most about them: a good book­shop is ‘a cru­cible of hu­man habit’—a place in which peo­ple’s in­ter­ac­tion with lit­er­a­ture and its pur­vey­ors re­veals their pe­cu­liar­i­ties. in celebrating book­shops, Browse her­alds hu­man­ity, with all its glo­ri­ous ec­cen­tric­i­ties. Emily Rhodes

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