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