By Diane Parfitt
What better book for the owner of a bookstore than one set in a bookstore?
But such books don’t appeal solely to those of us lucky enough to spend our days surrounded by thousands of books. (Yes. Real books with paper pages!)
The books set in bookstores have a wide range. They may be set in a small, independent bookstore, a used bookstore or the neighborhood bookstore that’s being challenged by the invading big-box bookstore (think “You’ve Got Mail”). There are mysteries set in bookstores and love stories about people who love books and who find they love each other, too.
Every one of the books listed below fits in at least one of these categories.
Besides their bookstore settings, many of these books are about how books touch us, help us through difficult times or help us have more empathy for others. The booksellers often try to fit the book to the right customer and I find this to be one of the greatest joys of owning a bookstore!
The Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George
Jean Perdu owns the floating bookstore, THE LITERARY APOTHECARY, hoping to mend broken hearts and souls with books. But he can’t seem to mend his own. The love of his life disappeared over 20 years ago, leaving him with only a letter, which he never read. When he is finally forced to read it, he launches his floating bookstore in search of answers to more questions.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon loses his Silicon Valley tech job and takes a job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. He soon discovers the bookstore is even stranger than its name and Clay sets out to discover its secrets. He discovers a 500-year-old secret society but also finds friendship, adventure and the reason a bookstore can be a place you enter but never want to leave!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
I love this book! A.J. Fikry owns a failing bookstore on an island off the New England coast and is still mourning the death of his beloved wife. In the course of a few days, his prized possession, a rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, is stolen and he receives a mysterious package at the door to his bookstore. He now finds he has a reason for living and his bookstore begins thriving again with a cast of characters who engage with him and his books.
People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks
Inspired by a true story, this novel traces the circuitous journey of a 15th century Hebrew manuscript. A rare-book expert, Hanna Heath, is enlisted to conserve this priceless work and finds herself unraveling its deep mysteries and the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.
The Bookman’s Tale
by Charlie Lovett
North Carolina writer Charlie Lovett has more than enough credentials to write a mystery novel about antiquarian books and booksellers. In this story a young antiquarian bookseller is still reeling from the death of his wife and he leaves North Carolina for the English countryside. He hopes to bury his grief with the joy he has felt in collecting and restoring rare books. When he discovers an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he also finds a Victorian watercolor that looks eerily like his late wife. He finds himself on a journey to discover the origin of the painting and, at the same time, put an end to the questions about Shakespeare’s writings.
Parnassus on Wheels
by Christopher Morley
This is Morley’s first novel, written in 1917. Parnassus on Wheels is a traveling bookstore owned by Roger Mifflin, who sells the business to Helen McGill. She buys it to escape the tedious task of taking care of her brother and to prevent him from buying it. So begins this delightfully funny novel of books, love and adventure. “When you sell a man a book,” says Roger Mifflin, “you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.”
The Red Notebook
by Antoine Laurain
When bookseller Laurent Letellier finds a lost handbag on a street in Paris, he wants to return it to the owner. However, there is nothing in the purse to lead him to her, except a red notebook with some of her writings. He embarks on a quest to find the owner and return her bag. But how to find one woman in a city with millions?
The Bookshop on the Corner
by Jenny Colgan
Librarian Nina Redman is a matchmaker – connecting people with the perfect book. But when she is let go from her much beloved job, she must set a new course for herself. She buys a van and transforms it into a mobile bookstore and moves to a sleepy village many miles away. With her talent for matchmaking with books, she travels from neighborhood to neighborhood, bringing the power and love for a good story to help change one life at a time. Now can she do that for herself and create her own happy ending?
The Book on the Book Shelf
By Henry Petroski
Did you know that it was not until the 16th century or later that books in libraries were placed on the shelves vertically rather than horizontally? While not strictly a book about bookstores, this delightful treatise on that seemingly mundane thing found in every bookstore and library will keep you entertained and uncommonly well-informed. As the author notes, “as simple as the bookshelf might appear to be…the story of its development, which is intertwined with that of the book itself, is curious, mysterious, and fascinating.” We couldn’t agree more!
The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe
I have to admit I was first interested in this book because of the title, not because it sounded good, but because it kind of made me sad and a bit wary. It’s anything but that. When Will Schwalbe’s mother was waiting for her chemotherapy, he asked her what she was reading. Thus begins their tradition of reading the same books so they can talk about them in the hospital waiting room. Their choices range from popular literature to classics. As readers, we are reminded of the power of books to entertain us, to teach us, to comfort us, but always to help us understand the world around us. This is a powerful book on caregiving, love and mourning.
Books for Living
by Will Schwalbe
I did not want to end my list of books with “The End of Your Life Book Club” – it just seemed a bit final. Will Schwalbe has a new book, “Books for Living,” with the tagline “Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life.” This seems like a wonderful follow-up to his last book. He sees reading as not only a way to entertain, but to help make sense of the world and to answer life’s big and small questions. Each chapter centers on one book and he discusses how it relates to these life concerns that we all share. And he utilizes all sorts of books to help us explore these issues – classics, spiritual, mysteries and science fiction. You have probably read many of these books but Schwalbe helps you see how much these books have brought to your life.
I know I am biased in my love for bookstores, but you will be too if you read any one of these delightful books.