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Bibliocle’s 5 favorite books about bookstores


Amazon has conquered many aspects of our cultural and consumer world, but when it comes to physical bookstores, they have a huge appeal. Every physical location is closed in 2022.

In his excellent new book, “Filterworld: How Algorithms Flatten Culture,” Kyle Chayka uses the failure of Amazon’s bookstores as an example to illustrate the limited meaning that algorithmic aggregation (like ratings) can provide. For example, Amazon stores “had sections dedicated to books rated 4.5 and above”; this measure is meaningless independent of other information about the books. We are not looking for books with a specific rating. We look for books that are about things we are interested in or that tell stories that catch our attention. In “Filterworld,” Chayka advocates embracing “curation” over collecting as a way to better put yourself in touch with the media and experiences you will find most meaningful.

I agree with Chayka’s point, so in honor of the failure of Amazon’s bookstores and in the spirit of curation, I’ll give you some of my favorite books about bookstores.

For a year, Paul Collins moved his family to the rural Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, which has a population of less than 2,000 but 40 bookshops. Once there, he finds lodging above a bookstore and gets busy exploring the town’s countless strange books and strange people while writing his own book; This book becomes the book you read. “Sixpence House: Getting Lost in a Town Full of Books.” It’s a love letter about both the futility of thinking your words will last and the amazing possibility that a book can be an attempt at immortality.

“Praise to Good Booksellers” This book, by Jeff Deutsch, director of Chicago Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, is a series of reflections and explorations of what it really means to bring a group of books under one roof through a series of individual acts of curation. In Deutsch’s view, this results in the “good bookseller” being an indispensable part of his society. I think the bosses of Seminary Co-Op Stores would agree with this sentiment.

Have you ever dreamed of moving to Tuscany and opening a small bookstore that was doomed to fail, but manages to attract the attention of people near and far and become a constant company that fills your life with the great joy of interacting with the store’s customers and volunteers? , surrounded by the books you love? Alba Donati was ahead of you on this issue and collected her experiences in a slim and attractive place. “Diary of a Tuscan Bookstore.” Am I jealous of Donati? Yes.

Articles by Josh Cook “The Art of Freedom: On Selling Books and Reading Books in the Twenty-First Century” Contribute to an examination of how commerce shapes what and how we read. Cook manages to simultaneously make you appreciate the romantic side of books and reading, while also recognizing how that romantic side can keep some groups from accessing the unique pleasures of books.

Finally, as an antidote to the romanticism of selling books, there’s Shaun Bythell’s. “Diary of a Librarian” Bythell describes what it is like to be both seduced and trapped by books as he tries to run his used book store in the small Scottish hamlet of Wigtown without deluding himself. The old building is collapsing. Customers have a hard time. The work is dirty and dusty. As the diary entries accumulate, we gain an intimate portrait of how close observation can make our ordinary lives extraordinary.

Every bookstore is unique. Every bookstore story is special.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Requirements.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what you should read, based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Lost Man” By Jane Harper

2. “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver

3. “Mating” by Norman Rush

4. “The Story of Bones” By Donna Cousins

5. “Anomaly” By Hervé Le Tellier

—Donna V., Chicago

I want a satisfying novel for Donna, with maybe a surprise or two. I prefer Jim Crace’s “Being Dead,” which is both a murder mystery and not a murder mystery.

1. “The Burning of the World: The Great Chicago Fire and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Scott W. Berg

2. “The Flower Moon Killers: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” By David Grann

3. “Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times” by HW Brands

4. “Stealing Lincoln’s Body” by Thomas J. Craughwell

5. “To Save the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876.” By Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney

—Russ W., Naples, Florida

Clearly I need to find an interesting study of history. How about “The Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore,” by John Taliaferro, a full telling of the complex story of this national landmark.

1. “Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul” By Jamie Ducharme

2. “The Art Thief: The True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession” By Michael Finkel

To eat. Watch. To do.


What to eat? What to watch? What you need to live your best life… is now.

3. “The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World” By AJ Baime

4. “Fire in the Heart: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plan to Take Over America and the Woman Who Stopped Them” By Timothy Egan

5. “River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” By Candice Millard

—Peggy H., Woodstock, Illinois

Peggy needs a book she can discuss with her reading buddy, and although they gravitate towards history, they’re not exclusive in this regard. How about an all-time classic that highlights the story we all thought we knew well, but probably wasn’t as good as we thought: “All the President’s Men” by Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward.

Get a reading from Bibliocle

Send a list of the last five books you read and your hometown to: biblioracle@gmail.com.


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