Anne Scott's 18 Bookshops is one of those rare books that is both personal and universal - it speaks of one woman's experience, but in a way that so many lovers of books and bookshops will identify with, and on the transformative possibilities of books and the places in which they are found it will perhaps make the reader see their own encounters in a new light.
This is a thoughtful work, one of quiet passion and a poet's sensibility. Handsomely designed, though the lack of page numbers means noting and revisiting a reference is a slower business than usual - but then see this post's title which is itself a lovely line from the book - it's a collection of word-portraits of 18 unique shops; some are well known to the author and have particular meaning for her at different times in her reading life, while others earn their place through their importance to literary history. To illustrate that eclecticism, there is the Covent Garden shop at which Boswell met Johnson, the sixteenth century Edinburgh shop, Chepman & Myllar, in which the first printed books in Scotland were produced, and on to the present day, Leakey's in Inverness, formerly St. Mary's Gaelic Church, where in a place in which the language once spoken and sung had 28 separate words for poem, the author finds the copy of Eliot's Little Gidding which she had been seeking; "Sometimes, as here," she says, "a Bookshop may be defined forever in a life by a single found book."
From the island of Iona to New York City, from small shops in small towns and the quaint and the curious to large city booksellers and establishments which launched major careers, this encapsulates the author's observation that "... bookshops are immeasurably strange and that the mind reading next to mine inhabits a separate earth", and for everyone who has ever seen a bookshop as the gateway to so many other worlds, this beautiful book on the character of such places and their significance to those who are drawn to them must have a place on the shelves.