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Browse: The World in Bookshops Hardcover – September 5, 2017
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"Lives up to its inviting title." - Times Literary Supplement
"Very worthwhile but not too worthy, this is a timely call to arms." - Monocle
'All these writers convey the magic of bookshops, while also making their vulnerability in recent times a recurrent theme.' - Guardian
'If you have ever lost yourself in a bookshop, felt the world fall away as you took a book off the shelves, this spell-binding collection will carry you off to shops near, far, lost and imagined.' - Mail on Sunday
'Everywhere bookshops are fast disappearing. Sixteen writers from around the world remind us why we should cherish them at all costs.' - Spectator
'In celebrating bookshops, Browse heralds humanity, with all its glorious eccentricities.' - Country Life
About the Author
Henry Hitchings is an award-winning writer, reviewer and critic. He has written for the Guardian, London Review of Books, TLS, Financial Times and New Statesman, and is currently the Evening Standard's theatre critic. He is the author of several acclaimed books on language, literature and culture, including Dr Johnson's Dictionary, How to Really Talk About Books You Haven't Read and The Language Wars. In 2008, he was shortlisted for the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and in the same year his book The Secret Life of Words won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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On the other hand, like most people, I much prefer the reading experience associated with handling a print book. I like the feel and smell of a book, as long as we’re talking paper, print and glue rather than damp, mould and mildew. It follows that for all the convenience of shopping for books online my heart is still heavily invested in the traditional bookshop, whether that deals with new or second-hand titles.
If any of this strikes a chord then ‘Browse’ will almost certainly be a book you’ll enjoy, as it is subtitled ‘The World in Bookshops’ and the editor’s introduction is followed by fifteen essays by diverse writers extolling the virtues of particular bookshops and of the bookshop experience in general.
The essays represent elegant variations around a relatively small number of themes but range very widely geographically, from St-Leonards-on-Sea to Nairobi and from Bologna to Beijing. All are united by their common love for the institution they celebrate, whether it take the form of a centre of counter-cultural dissent or an oasis of reflective calm. For me the best piece, alongside the introduction by Henry Hitchings, is Mark Forsyth’s essay on the magic of serendipitously discovering something on the bookshelves which inspires a new passion.
Most bookbuyers are, paradoxically, unlikely to discover or purchase this book after browsing in a bookshop but the revival of vinyl at least gives hope that there may be a growing number who come to ‘Browse’ through bookshop rumination.
Each of the contributors to this collection have singled out a bookshop that was significant in both their life and career. Browse is a thoughtful, pensive and enticing trip through the world's drastically different bookshop experiences and how they shaped the author's and reader's of today. Each story is filled with wonder, nostalgia and influence. Moments like finding old train tickets in used books, working in bookshops, finding secret book sections and the frustration of only picking one book at a time. Each author manages to bring something new to the subject.
Fortunately it does not get repetitive, with every author having a unique perspective. The most bizarre being Sasa Stanisic who writes about books in a jarring and strange style. Talking as if books were a substance, a drug that can influence your life and change your mind about how the world works. Browse is brimming with inspiration, optimism, pessimism, fear and happiness. Every bookshop is hiding wonderful secrets, secrets that cannot be found on book websites. It is up to us to go out, find them, cherish them and pass them on to those we love.
I will always seek out book related books as I think the subject empowers readers, excites us and leads us to place we might not have considered before. Browse will suit any reader, I recommend Browse to everyone who finds bookshops fascinating, important and significant. Thank you for reading this review, I advise you to pick up this book as soon as you can. I hope you enjoy it and please tell me what you thought.
So, yes, each piece does have something that other pieces don’t have; but there is much more similarity than there is difference between the sixteen contributions; and my overall impression of the book was that it was rather repetitive.