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Books about Bookstores


“I became a writer, a teller of tales,” he once said, “because otherwise I would have died, or worse.”  Carlos Ruiz Zafon [1964–2020]

My reading list lately has been crowded with books about bookstores. An old friend once joked (in all seriousness, I believe) that his notion of retirement was the management of a bar-bookstore-travel agency, because it combined his three favorite activities. I can applaud two of them.

There is always Fahrenheit 451, and 84, Charing Cross Road is in a class by itself. I didn’t get very far in A Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. But “The Library of Babel”, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, has been on my reading list for far too long. Then another Spanish-language writer stepped ahead of him: Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who created a quartet in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”. Last night (or early this morning) I finished Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and am about to begin The Midnight Library by Matt Haig:

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

Regrets I have aplenty. And I’d almost welcome an opportunity to reflect on what might have been. But only to confirm the choices made, no matter how ill-conceived.

There’s a blog entry here about Agincourt’s once-upon-a-time dealer in used and the occasional rare book which I probably need to expand. It’s already the end of October and I’ve not written very much.

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