Books Set in Bookshops

Reading Recs

I was talking to my daughter over lunch the other day about the books we’re reading.

She belongs to a book group that reads “serious” fiction and, coming up on their list is Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. It’s a book much loved by Sophie Weston and I have taken advantage of Amazon’s “download a sample” button to get a feel for the voice, the story.

Reading cozy crime

My daughter and I talked about a crime series that I’ve read (not cozy) Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths series. Annoyingly, it appears to have stopped, leaving a lot of questions unanswered.

She downloaded the first book but she’s not sure. She didn’t quite take to the main character and while I read very fast on kindle, she listens on audio (she has three children and doesn’t have time to sit down with a book) which gives the listener a surprisingly different experience.

I knew the series was set in Wales but she was getting the accents, which can make listening hard work.

Books set in bookshops

Then, because I enjoy cozy crime, she mentioned a book by Helen Cox, called A Body in the Bookshop that she thought I might like and we started talking about how many books are set in and around bookshops.

Amy suggested I try the Pultizer prize winner, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which was on her book group list. Time for another sample because there is something inherently appealing about a book set in a bookshop.

I fell in love with Helen Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road a lifetime ago – and Anthony Hopkins in the film, playing the man with whom she had a long and profitable correspondence.

Anne Bancroft fell in the love with the book, too, and her husband, Mel Brookes, bought the film rights so that she could play Helen.

Romances set in bookshops

There are many romances set in bookshops. Not in quite the same number as the little cafes and cakeshops, but a quick search brought up The Village Green Bookshop by Rachael Lucas, which felt as if it was in the same genre. All of them are much deeper and with emotional depths not hinted at by the covers.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser was one where I downloaded a sample and then clicked “buy” and didn’t regret it.

A heroine to root for and a darkly grumpy man who is not exactly a hero, but like the heroine I rather fell for him.

I found The Bookshop on the Corner, part of a series by Jenny Colgan and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. The blurbs were fun and by this time my “download sample” digit was working overtime.

Bookshops and bloody murder

And it’s not all romance. Bookshops, it seems, are the perfect places to commit bloody murder. All those hidden places behind the stacks. I’m thinking here about my local indie bookshop in East Grinstead. This photograph dates from 1864.

This is it today, with the tables set up outside for the chess club. Built in the sixteenth century it’s still all oak beams and creaky floors with any number of places to conceal a body. That reminds me of The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham, set in Exeter and with added ghost, which I’ve already read.

Quirky and literary

There are quirky ones, like Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop, The Library of Shadows and The Storied Life of A J Fikry which has a supernatural element, adding another layer to the mystery. I’m looking forward to reading it.

And finally there are the more literary offerings including Booker Prize nominee, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (I’ve seen the movie), and the historical Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

And that’s where I planned to stop browsing for titles because my kindle was loaded with samples and, who knows, I might want to read them all.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done that, howling with frustration when I can’t read on as I scramble  to click buy.

Lost for words

But then, fellow Liberta hivie, Sophie Weston suggested I might like Lost for Words by Stephanie Rutland. I did indeed lose the rest of my weekend (after major post decorating cleaning) and a fair bit of Monday morning. No more housework, no writing…

I was totally drawn in by Loveday, the spiky young woman at the centre of this story, by the mystery of her backstory, by the characters who surround her in the past and in the present. And by the glorious Archie (whose tall tales – probably true – remind me of my late husband) who owns Lost for Words, a bookshop in York.

At some point, as Loveday’s backstory unfolds, tears began to fall. I grabbed a tissue and carried on.

Three tissues later I had to go and find the box because the tears didn’t stop until I reached the end, surrounded by a pile of wet and snotty tissues but with that blissful glow of happiness that comes when you’ve read a wonderful book with a great ending.

It doesn’t happen that often – the last time was when I read Spirited by Julie Cohen – but those are the books that stay with you, that you tell your friends to read, that you never forget.

What books set in bookshops have you loved? Pile in with the recs!

Author Liz FieldingLiz

12 thoughts on “Books Set in Bookshops

  1. Joanna

    Lovely range of ideas here, Liz. Thank you. My TBR pile is going to be toppling over if I add even half of the ones I haven’t read… 😉

  2. Sophie

    What a lovely blog. Some of my favourite books here, too. (SO pleased you loved Lost for Words as I did, Liz.)

    I’m particularly intrigued by your quirky novels, none of which I’ve read. Definitely for the TBR list. But only when I’ve finished editing the book in hand, I promise!

  3. lesley2cats

    Lovely blog Liz. And my contribution: Jumping to Conclusions by Christina Jones. I and both daughters absolutely loved it.

  4. Elizabeth Rolls

    Wow! As if I don’t have enough books teetering on my TBR pile! Oddly enough I’ve got a romance set in a bookshop coming out in December. Clearly there were all these wonderful books I ought to have been reading for inspiration. Thanks for the recs, Liz. They sound amazing, but first I’m going to find a copy of Lost For Words. Sophie’s recommendations have always been gold for me. I still haven’t thanked her sufficiently for pointing me in the direction of Diana Wynne Jones all those years ago.

    1. Liz Fielding

      How lovely, Elizabeth. I’ll look out for your new book. And yes, Sophie, is always a good steer — I have another of her recs on my Kindle waiting a reading moment.

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