Letters to Bookshops Around the World – Henry Hitchings

Hello Loves!

Well, isn’t February running away with us! I can’t believe it really. However, I’m still hiding in books and taking solace from them whenever I get a spare moment. This evening, whilst I relax from work, I want to share with you a book that has been on my mind a lot this week – well, ever since I finished reading it really. Letters to Bookshops Around the World opened my eyes to new writers but more than that, it made my heart sing because it made me think back to being a little girl and my own journey with reading and bookshops. It also made me feel incredibly lucky that I have had the reading opportunities that I have had in my life. I knew I had to share this with you all, my fellow book bloggers because it is something that we can all relate to. I hope you enjoy!

What’s it all about?
To review this book has been quite difficult to be honest. I don’t want to ruin anything but also I want to make sure I share the magic of it entirely! This stunning book is a collection of letters all about experiences in bookshops. This called to me because bookshops are my safe havens. Within this book, there are writers like Ali Smith and Elif Shafak. People I thankfully know! However, there are also writers that I very openly admit I’ve never heard of, like Pankaj Mishra, Ian Sansom and Yiyun Li. By sharing these stories, the love of bookshops continues far and wide. Edited by Henry Hitchings, his letter is one that I can relate to mostly I think, but they all follow the same pattern: tales from childhood and how these bookshops and our relationships with them have adapted over time.

“This is not a gazetteer, a guide to the bookshops of the world. Instead it’s an anthology of personal experiences of the book, the most resonant object of the last millennium, and of the special place where readers go to acquire their books…”

One of my favourite letters is from Ali Smith. The focus of this letter is sharing the experiences of secondhand bookshops. In my own experience, I’ve found some real hidden gems in secondhand bookshops. Smith talks about finding notes, dates and personal stories within. She reflects on the bookshop her English teacher told her about which is still a prominent feature in her life in adulthood. You may have all seen my recent post about the telephone box library. This is my favourite thing right now! I completely see why Smith picks the secondhand bookstores to write about.

“The smell of paperback ink and paper was its own intoxication.”

The other letter that I found most compelling was by Elif Shafak. This letter shows the importance of the bookshops from around the world – places like Ankara, Madrid and Istanbul. Wherever you live or wherever life takes you, books will always be there. They are just waiting to be discovered; a thought that absolutely thrills me to be honest. Shark’s reflects upon the difference in the secondhand stores in her own experience. Part of me is slightly jealous… these sound incredible. You just never know what you might find when you’re there.

“Many of these were not exactly shops, but rather ramshackle huts full of mesmerizing range of manuscripts and miniatures and magazines, as well as forgotten – sometimes banned – publications.”

Overall, every letter has the same theme: universal love of bookshops. What is interesting is that they mean different things to different people, from all walks of life, from all around the world. It’s a heartfelt collection that is thought-provoking and gives the reader the opportunity to also travel around the world on a metaphorical carpet ride too.

Final Thoughts
To me bookshops are places of calm, serenity and passion. This book has made me want to reflect upon my own childhood, my experiences of bookshops and write my own letter. Maybe I’ll post that once I’ve drafted it. However, if you’re like me and you’re a book lover and reader, this book is completely for you. It will inspire you to reflect upon your own experiences of bookshops and maybe even write your own. Lastly, I feel so grateful that I have this passion. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a big love in my life.

See you all next time loves.

Big Love xxx

11 thoughts on “Letters to Bookshops Around the World – Henry Hitchings

  1. Interesting that these letters hark back to childhood. Though Iโ€™ve always been a voracious reader, I did not go to bookstores as a child. I did buy books through school sales, but mostly borrowed from libraries or off my parentsโ€™ shelves. Bookstores have been an adult treat.

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