Book Review: The Bookshop Book, by Jen Campbell

When I first received this book in the mail, I expected to read it in bits and pieces, splitting cv_the_bookshop_bookmy reading times between it and a novel.

Instead, I had the whole thing cover-to-cover, devoured within three days. As a dedicated bibliophile, a lover of libraries and second-hand and novelty bookstores, something in this one touched me to the core of my being. Sure, some of the descriptions of these exotic and intriguing bookstores were a little brief, but others filled me with a sense of both inspiration and hope.

This book takes you on a journey around the world − across the United Kingdom, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia, with lamentably few from Australia (and even fewer from New Zealand). Each shop is described in brief, some with a fuller history, intermingled with passages from book bloggers and authors, all speaking of their love of literature and (in some cases) describing their own, perfect bookstore. Audrey Niffeneger, Cornelia Funke (who is as poetic in her speech as her writing), Bill Bryson, Joanne Harris and more, big-name authors aplenty, all giving us a little insight into their literary world. We are also treated to bookish quotes and a scree of random facts − one of my favourites concerning the existence of the word “abibliophobia”, the fear of running out of things to read.

There is a bookshop on a barge in the UK (soon to move to France), a donkey-back library in Colombia; in tree-houses, re-purposed factories and even underground. All of them run not by corporate businessmen, seeking to make money, but by the dedicated souls who truly love their literature and the shared experience of enjoying a book. In an age when the digital era is fast overtaking the physical, where CDs and DVDs have become largely redundant, and books being replaced by e-readers, when the once-dedicated book giants, like Borders, have been forced to diversify or fade into obscurity, it is genuinely heart-warming to see that there are dedicated individuals keeping the spirit of reading alive.

This is a beautiful little book, a keepsake and memento for those of us who love to wander the shelves, stroking the spines and imagining the journeys on which a book can take you. Or, indeed, the journeys on which it has already been, the people who have read it, cherished it, and passed it on.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver 

The Bookshop Book
by Jen Campbell
Published by Constable
ISBN 9781472116666


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