The concept of Book Towns first came into being in the 1960s, Claire Cock-Starkey writes at Mental Floss, when the fortunes of Hay-on-Wye, a small market town on the Welsh/English border, were transformed by the power of books.
The opportunity to regenerate struggling villages and towns by opening up secondhand bookstores and welcoming literary events has since been embraced by many other locations around the world, creating a network of fascinating places to visit, all with books at their heart.
One of those Book Towns is Hobart in the Catskills which in 1999 was nearly a ghost town. After noticing the success of one antiquarian bookshop, a resident opened up two more bookstores. Today there are six bookshops, teeming with books on every subject, as well as an annual Festival of Women Writers. It’s quickly become a tempting weekend destination for book-loving New Yorkers.
Then take Bredvoort, Netherlands
via Sylviav Bruggen // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bredevoort (population: 1525), a small medieval town in the Netherlands, was designated a book town in 1993 because of its more than 20 second hand and antiquarian bookshops. Every third Saturday of the month, the town square hosts a book market, attracting book dealers from all over the country to sell English, German, and Dutch books. Bredevoort is one of the founding members of the International Organisation of Book Towns, and hosts many literary events to support the local book economy.
From Book Towns to libraries
That isn’t much of a stretch, so when I was putting this blog together, a story on New York City Library’s most popular checkouts caught my eye.
There is only one issue I have ever had with a library. I tend to burn my way through one, metaphorically speaking, too fast. I did that when I was seven – I had been reading fluently since age 4 – and my local children’s library simply became too small a world for me.
At home I was reading whatever was available. No age limit was ever set in my household – if I could read it and it interested me enough to hold my attention, I was allowed to have anything I picked up. But although i was surrounded by books at home… I loved my library.
I loved the smell of it, the serried ranks of books that reminded me that there were more books out there, more and more and more than I would ever have the time to read in a single lifetime. They all came to live here, folding the wings of their covers over the treasure of the words inside, waiting for people like me to come and wake them into life by turning to the first page of something new that we had not read before. But something that somehow carried the imprint of all the other eyes that had read it, all the other hearts and minds those words had touched.
That was the thing about a library, it was a place where we all came, all the readers, and we SHARED OUR WORLDS. We could all live out our dreams in those stories. No two the same, perhaps, ever – but these were roads where we had company, where shadowed others walked beside us, where occasionally you could glance sideways and meet someone’s eyes and smile and nod in recognition. The library tribe. We and the books, we belonged here.
They are still the home of my spirit. Their stacks, their patient books, their quiet halls. They are the temples of my faith.
But I digress …about those most popular library books:
New York City Library’s Most Popular Check Outs of 2015
Top 10 Books System wide
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
NYPD Red 3 by Marshall Karp and James Patterson
Prodigal Son by Danielle Steel
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Grey by E. L. James
Indie Customer Makes ‘Penance, Reparations’ Payment
In the mail shortly after the Christmas rush, Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle received a check for $94.89, Shelf Awareness reports. The memo section of the check read: “Voluntary penance and reparations for buying books at A.”
General manager Tracy Taylor contacted the customer who told him that “he felt very guilty about buying books for family on Amazon this year. The customer said he always tries to support us and buy books here, but he had a moment of weakness this yea. So he looked up the difference between the costs and decided to send us a check for the difference.”
Paying it forward, Elliott Bay is using the money to buy and send books to Treehouse, a Seattle nonprofit that helps kids in foster care with basic needs and support.
Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores
Ann Pratchett Book Store Nashville
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Ann Prachett writes:
When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville a little over four years ago, I repeatedly said that we were part of a trend. The small independent bookstore, long ago beaten down by Borders and Barnes & Noble, then repeatedly kicked by Amazon, was rising up from the ashes…
I credit the customers, who seem to be collectively waking up to the fact that they are in charge of what businesses fail and succeed based on where they spend their money. If you like your bookstore and want it to stay in your community, then you have to buy your books there, in the same way you must buy your hammer from the guy at the hardware store who always gives you good advice.
Quote of the Day
“You swear that this is the year that you’ll FINALLY get your shelves organized” ~ Farrah Penn, BuzzFeed
simmatron / Via instagram.com
Actually, it’s not only the shelves in all the rooms of my house, it’s the whole library too. Sigh.
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