Category Archives: Books About Books

The Little Paris Bookshop – Book Review

Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Publisher: Crown, 2015
Where I heard about this book: I received this book directly from the publisher

What first drew me to Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop was all the “books about books” chatter accompanying its launch. An area it certainly delivered in. But while books play a central part in The Little Paris Bookshop it is ultimately about loss and the consequences of our choices. All of which is peppered with the food and landscape of France.

TheLittleParisBookshop

The book follows Jean Perdu, book prescriber, bookseller and captain of the Literary Apothecary, a book barge moored along the Seine and overflowing with books and . The first third of the book is filled with thoughts and talk of books, literature and book buyers as Perdu will not allow his customers to buy any old book they want – it must be the “right” book.

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.” –Monsieur Jean Perdu

This self-imposed hermit bookman displays a knack for sizing up a customer and prescribing just the right book to cure what ails them. But Perdu is suffering from his own pains and deeper issues as well. So he and a best-selling-author neighbor cast the lines ashore and take off down the river, in the book barge, to deal with Perdu’s past choices head on. More literary-minded characters come on board along the way as lives unravel and are laid bare.

Once the journey starts, George really starts to focus on loss, the choices we make in life and the stages of grief. Oh my goodness does Perdu spend time becoming self-aware. A lot of time. Towards the end there’s lots of yelling at the sea and pounding on tables as he comes to grips of lost love, growing older, re-connecting with himself and those around him.

The book is much more of a romance than I was first expecting. There was a lot more pining away and emotional anguish than I planned on. But the jacket designer, for the U.S. edition, nailed it. Just know that the sense you get from the cover is exactly what’s inside.

All of the book talk made it worth it for me though. Lots of Harry Potter and classic literature references to feed your inner bibliophile. And I would be selling it short if I didn’t mention the food and the river scenery. I was ready to set sail and eat my way through France by the time I turned the final page. The book even has a few recipes in the back from meals that were enjoyed in the book. Ultimately this book is filled with folks that I’d love to have over for a dinner party.

I give The Little Paris Bookshop three out of five stars and I’m recommending this book to friends I already know read romance books. But again it was worth it to me, just for all of the bookish discussions and characters.

EXTRA: The publishing team for the book put together a neat promotional book apothecary website where you can go and get books prescribed for you based on how you’re feeling.

Portsmouth Athenaeum

The Portsmouth Athenaeum, in New Hampshire, has made my “book/library/shop that I must visit one day” list. How much fun would it be to peruse these stacks and hang out in their reading room for an afternoon? So cool.

The Athenaeum is a non-profit “membership” library where people pay dues to use the stacks and attend events. And folks have been doing that since 1817 when the library was founded. There is so much history here.

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I love the bookcases and tables. You can click through these photos to see the virtual tour page for the Portsmouth Athenaeum (it uses a shockwave viewer, so you may need a plug-in to scroll around), but it’s totally worth it if you like books and books about books.

There seems to be quite a history to the idea of a “member supported” library. It was quite the model for sharing books and knowledge 150 years ago. You could belong to a travel library, philosophy library, general lending library, etc. Whatever your interests were and you could afford. Almost like private clubs to a degree I imagine.

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Libraries have changed (for the better, I think) quite a bit over the years, but it sure is fun to look at these old stacks and think about how it used to be. Maybe I’ll make it up there one day to see it in person.

A Word About “Books about Books”

One thing I truly enjoy reading about is books. Books about books is just about as good as it gets. These can cover book collecting, book arts, book plates, libraries, crafts, publishing, biographies about writers or editors,etc. There are even sub-genres of fiction that identify when books or bookstores or libraries figure heavily into the story. It’s a little meta. It’s a little nerdy (but not geeky), but it’s great to read up on people’s personal libraries and people’s relationships to books.

books about booksBut there is no word for it! You read that right. I can find no single word that means “books about books”.

How can this be? Is there one that I haven’t thought about? Surely someone has solved this problem by now. How can there be no word for “books on books”?

If you read books about book fanatics you’re reading about bibliomania. If you read mystery books about books you are reading bibliomysteries. But what if you’re reading books about books? The trio of words works, but you have to admit “books about books” is a bit cumbersome. Can’t we come up with a word whose sole definition is “books about books”? I guess if you read books about books you are a bibliophile, but how can we work that so it means an actual book whose focus is books.

Time to get busy wordsmiths! Let’s solve this. The solution (the final word, if you will) should be an elegant one worthy of the task. Biblio-biblio is just weird. Biblio-books is even more awkward than the original phrase.

Of course, this whole exercise makes me think of Sniglets. So now I have to go find those books and thumb through them. You should do the same. But when we get done reading…. back to the neologistic task at hand!

Politics & Prose Gift Guide

The 2012 Politics & Prose Holiday Gift Guide is out. It’s a free PDF download from their site as well. There are a gazillion good recommendations, but very few that you won’t find featured at one of Birmingham’s local bookstores. But, if you’re on this site you are probably of the ilk that enjoys scrolling through pages and pages of book covers and book reviews. I know I do.

One thing that I find particularly worrisome is the lack of books about books. The section under Biblio-graphic has one book My Ideal Bookshelf and there is also the new slipcased issue of the Book of Kells, which isn’t really about books per-se, but I think most bookish folks would appreciate the new edition as well as the place in book history that the Book of Kells holds. Anyway, this must be rectified! I am now on a mission here at the end of 2012 to chronicle the 10 Best Books about Books published this year.

Politics and Prose Gift Guide