Heartwarming Bookshop and Library Fiction for Booklovers
For bibliophiles there is a special kind of delight in reading novels revolving around bookshops and libraries. Having our abiding love for these literary emporia reflected in the careful, evocative descriptions of authors who clearly adore them as well feels like membership of a special club - as though these books were written for us alone.
In recent years some of the most heartwarming and life-affirming bookshop and library tales have come from East Asia, with the hugely successful Days at the Morisaki Bookshop delivering a universal message about the healing power of books, What You Are Looking for is in the Library emphasising how reading can build bonds within communities and Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop portraying the bookstore as a haven of refuge from a frantic and stressful world.
That said, there are also plenty of English-language novels about bookshops that can tug wonderfully on the heartstrings. Gabrielle Zevin, author of the mega-selling former Waterstones Fiction Book of the Month Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, delivered the irresistible story of a misanthropic bookshop owner whose cold exterior is breached by the unexpected arrival of a toddler in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Meanwhile, Jenny Colgan has made something of a career out of unspooling uplifting romantic comedies with a bookshop slant - from the festive The Christmas Bookshop and Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop to the more summery vibe of The Bookshop on the Shore and The Bookshop on the Corner.
Venturing a little further afield, Nina George's bestselling The Little Paris Bookshop is a gorgeously comforting read about a book barge on the Seine (could a book about books get any more romantic...?) originally written in George's native German.
As well as public popularity, books about bookshops and libraries are also a hit with the critics and the awards panels. One of the most memorable Women's Prize for Ficton winners of recent years - Ruth Ozeki's The Book of Form and Emptiness - is an exquisitely written and capacious novel of ideas centred on the concept of the library-as-refuge-from-a-troubling world. Louise Erdrich's Booker Prize-shortlisted The Sentence, meanwhile, interweaves a ghost story with a study of redemption as a convict-turned-bookshop employee investigates a haunting at their workplace. A beloved classic and fellow Booker-shortlisted title, Penelope Fitzgerald's sublime The Bookshop tells the pitch-perfect story of a woman who awakens old rivalries and petty jealousies in a sleepy town when she deigns to open the eponymous establishment.
To conclude, we take a look at bookshop and library novels that have something of the fantastical about them. The rise in 'cottage-core' fantasy - where traditional sword-and-sorcery adventure is replaced by more wistful or romantic tropes - has led to the huge success of Travis Baldree, who followed up the winsome Legends and Lattes with the tale of a lit-loving orc Bookshops and Bonedust. The otherworldly power of books is explored poignantly by Matt Haig in the much-loved The Midnight Library, where a woman hovering between life and death finds a way to undo her past regrets, whilst the freewheeling surrealism of Robin Sloan's cult favourite Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore invokes secret societies and bizarre conspiracies centred on the unique titular book emporium.
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