I was kindly given Browse: The World in Bookshops by Netgalley. This has not changed my opinions.
If you know anything about me, know this: I am obsessed with books about books. I've read books about authors, about book challenges, about the 1000 books you must read in this life. I've read books about bookshops. And Browse is one of the best.
This is not a gazetteer, a guide to the bookshops of the world. Instead, it's an anthology of personal experiences of the book, the most resonant object of the last millennium, and of the special place where readers go to acquire their books - a pharmacy or pharmacopoeia, a miracle of eclecticism, a secret garden, an ideological powder keg, a stage for protest against the banality and glibness of the rest of the world, and also a place of safety and sanity, the only kind of grotto that is also a lighthouse (25).
One of the main things that I loved about this collection is that there is such a variety of bookshops and voices - bookshops in Nairobi, London, Egypt, and many other countries! Many of the essays were originally written in the writer's native language and then translated for this anthology, which is a touch that I appreciated. I do always wonder, though, what has been lost or changed in translation.
The best essay by far was the essay 'Leitner and I' by Sasa Stanistic. He describes books as drugs - different books give different types of hits, which he purchases from his book dealer. I'm definitely not doing this essay justice, because it isn't at all gimmick-y or distasteful. It rather works quite elegantly, and I can definitely say that I've never read an essay quite like it. After this delightfully different ode to bookstores and those who own them, the other essays were a bit...samey. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy them, because I did, but they felt like any writer's description of the bookstore they love.
Browse manages to capture the strange love that writers and readers have for bookstores and booksellers. Written with awe and wonder, it made me want to dash to my favourite bookstore (Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, if you were wondering) and spend hours perusing the shelves in the hopes that my next life-changing book will jump out at me. I will almost certainly be purchasing this book in hardcopy at some point.
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