Wyatt’s World: Classic Books About Bookstores

Books about bookstores are a dual pleasure, offering as they do both story and background details about one of the places stories reside. The publication of P.O. Box Love: A Novel of Letters by Paola Calvetti (St. Martin’s), a novel with lush details about a bookshop, gives librarians an excuse to highlight some older titles that are classics of bookstore literature but have likely been forgotten in the stacks:

  • Lewis Buzbee’s The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History (Graywolf), a treasure of a book and an ode to the bookstore, explores bookshops of all kinds, and through history, in detailed and radiant prose.
  • Paul Collins’s Sixpence House (Bloomsbury), while hard to find now, is a gem of a book that explores Hay-on-Wye, a tiny Welsh village with 40 bookstores.
  • A deft and witty character study, Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (Houghton Harcourt) chronicles how Florence Green opens a bookstore in a small English town in 1959, much to the dismay of her neighbors.
  • Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road (Penguin), through a series of letters, brings to life the workings of a small antiquarian bookshop in London.
  • Jeremy Mercer’s Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. (Picador) revolves around the bookstore of the 1920s, the one that published James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the post‚ World War II version, Mercer crashed in the store’s sleep accommodations and chronicled the life of its owner and customers.
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net


  1. paola calvetti says:

    Dear neal,

    I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for your note on P.O.Box…
    From Italy
    Paola Calvetti

  2. Margaret Heilbrun Margaret Heilbrun says:

    Sad that Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop (1919) is not included, not to mention its short prequel Parnassus on Wheels. The Haunted Bookshop was the most famous novel with a bookshop at its core for decades, and was a bestseller. Throughout the story, Brooklyn bookseller Roger Mifflin speaks inspiringly about the joys of books and reading.