THE books about books they can now be considered a real one literary vein; are more and more, and more and more appreciated by readers, the titles that tell real or invented stories of booksellers, librarians, archivistsand other professions linked to the world of the book become a meta story of the variegated world linked to reading.
These titles (very often novelssometimes guides And essaysbut there are also poems and hybrids) usually have protagonists who are passionate about books, or who become so over time, discovering in the pages of their readings a new way of relating to lifeor an unexpected solution to your problems.
At other times, in these works one imagines what it would be like to meet the author or author of one’s favorite novels, or a window is opened on the more practical and less romantic background involved in working with books, which it is never just reading and discoveryalthough these are the decidedly most appreciated aspects.
However, this theme does not represent a literary novelty, in fact writers have always liked to think about the value of reading with their own stories. Just think, for example, of classics like If a winter’s night a travelerby Italo Calvino, or the most dramatic Fahreneit 451 by Ray Bradbury (both published by Mondadori, the second in the translation by Giuseppe Lippi), to understand how different the ways of thinking about reading through fiction can be.
To start exploring this strand, we’ve rounded up some recent releases that specifically focus on booksellers and bookstoresand the fascination that the latter arouse not only in readers but also in entrepreneurs who decide to try their hand at the profession despite the difficulties and changes taking place in the sector.
Let’s start this journey with The bookseller who saved the books (Garzanti, translation by Stefano Beretta) written by Kerri Maher. We are in the Paris of 1919, when Sylvia, the founder of Shakespeare & Company, decides to publish a book that will make the history of literature: James Joyce’s Ulysses. But her choice, due to rampant censorship, could jeopardize the survival of her own library. To support her in her battle we find the writers who at that time were inspired by the Parisian atmosphere: Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. This novel, which mixes history and fiction, represents a real homage to some of the most important symbols of the literature of the 1900s.
Cristina is a bookseller with one goal: to become a “pocket bookseller”, that is, a bookseller capable of entering the pockets of her readers through her advice and her literary knowledge; but her catalog and her good will alone are not enough. The pocket bookseller (Giunti), written by Cristina di Canio, founder of the Milanese bookshop renamed “the lilac box”, tells the story of the world of bookstores, and also in the less glossy aspects. In fact, managing one also means managing relations with wholesalers, moving and opening many boxes, thinking about invoices and returns, organizing events, planning communication on the web, but also, and above all, being able to recommend the right book to readers, the one which will keep them glued to the pages and which will bring them back to the bookstore for a new tip.
Alba Donati in The library on the hill (Einaudi), tells us a comforting story, one that puts a smile on your face; is the story of the Bookshop under the pen, opened by Donati in 2019 in Lucignana, a town of only 170 souls in the Tuscan hills, thanks to the support of crowdfunding and word of mouth on social media. Unfortunately, the difficulties did not stop with the opening of the library, which was destroyed by a fire just over a month after it opened. After the reconstruction, which mobilizes the country and the readers, the lockdown arrives to dampen the enthusiasm. But that of the Bookshop under the pen is a story with a happy ending, as Donati tells in this diary of the first six difficult but encouraging months of his new activity, made of difficulties overcome thanks also to the sense of community offered by books, reading and places that support both.
In The little freedoms (Feltrinelli), Lorenza Gentile tells the story of Olivia, a thirty-year-old woman who lives with her parents, and who is about to marry Bernardo, apparently the perfect man. Yet Olivia is not happy, and her discomfort manifests itself through insomnia and tachycardia. A breath of fresh air comes thanks to a message from Aunt Vivienne, whom Olivia has not heard for years and who has lived in Paris for some time. Vivienne however, once Olivia reaches out to her urgent request for her, she seems nowhere to be found. This forces Olivia, in an attempt to find her aunt, to attend the bohemian community that revolves around the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, an adventure that will make her rediscover the pleasure of small freedoms, giving her the courage to finally try to conquer a bigger one. .
My days at the Morisaki bookshop (Feltrinelli, translation by Gala Maria Follaco) by Satoshi Yagisawa, transports us to the world of Japanese literature. 25-year-old Takako’s life needs a shakeup: ever since the man she’s in love with has revealed to her that she’s going to marry another woman, she’s never dating her anymore. A little by chance, a little by luck, Takako however rediscovers Jinbōchō, the Tokyo bookshop district, a place with a magical and peaceful atmosphere, where her family has owned a small business for three generations. To take care of it is uncle Satoru, who has dedicated himself to the bookshop with even more dedication since his wife left him. Satoru offers Takako a place to sleep in exchange for a few hours of work, and this is how she, despite never having been a great reader, finds thanks to her books a new way of relating to people.
The Cairo bookseller (Garzanti, translation by Bianca Bernardi) by Nadia Wassef tells the story of Nadia, her sister Hind and their friend Nihal. In 2002 the three women decided to open a modern and independent bookshop in Cairo, a challenge made even more difficult by the fact that at that time, due to the problems suffered by the country, books represented a luxury that many could not afford. Nadia, however, does not allow herself to be discouraged and thus the Diwan bookshop was born, which thanks to its commitment and that of the other founders in a few years not only achieved success, but expanded through numerous offices in Egypt, becoming a symbol of the power of change that can arise from books and literature.
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