Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word by Alex Johnson (Review)

There are two things that I love to do: travel and read books. So when I came across this book with the topic of Book Towns, I was instantly intrigued. What is a book town? Read on to find out!

Book Details:

Book Title: Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word by Alex Johnson
Category: Adult Non-Fiction,  192 pages
Genre: Travel & Holiday / Tourist Destinations / Books
Publisher: Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group
Release date: March 22, 2018
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Around 40 semi-official Book Towns now exist around the world, with most concentrated in Europe, South-East Asia, North America and Australia, but until now, there has been no directory of their location, history and charm. Book Towns takes readers on a richly illustrated tour of these captivating literary towns, outlining the history and development of each community, as well as offering practical travel advice.

Many Book Towns have emerged in areas of marked attraction, such as UreƱa in Spain or Fjaerland in Norway, where bookshops have been set up in buildings including former ferry waiting rooms and banks. The views of the nearby glacier and dramatic mountains are superb. Although the UK has the best known examples at Hay, Wigtown and Sedbergh, the book has a broad international appeal, featuring locations such as Jimbochu in Japan, College Street in Calcutta, and major unofficial 'book cities' such as Buenos Aires.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

There are two things that I love to do: travel and read books. And whenever I do travel I always keep an eye out for bookshops, book stands, and libraries. I love coming home with a book I bought on my travels. So when I came across this book with the topic of Book Towns, I was instantly intrigued. What is a book town?

In Book Town: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word, the author describes a book town as "simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries." The movement began when towns wanted to help their economy by focusing on sustainable tourism so that communities can thrive and the traditional book kept alive. Many of these villages hold literary festivals and other creative events that appeal to artists and tourists.

Damme, Belgium

Alex Johnson has compiled together the very first guide of 45 book towns from nearly 30 countries, giving us a brief history of the town, popular events that take place there and photos of its quaint landmarks. Each section ends with a small information box containing pertinent website links and how to best get to the town by car, train, or bus.

I loved reading about these towns, many of which are in Europe. Each is unique in its own way. It stirred the travel bug in me, making me want to hop on a plane to visit and stroll through their streets, these towns that display their love of books in such creative ways.

A labyrinth of books for sale in the centre of St-Pierre-de-Clages, France

The author dedicates about 4 pages per town, with lots of photos and a short text that packs a punch of interesting info. One learns not only interesting historical tidbits but also fun information about the towns and its inhabitants. Some of these towns offer stunning scenery, making them the perfect place to buy and read a book. Truly paradisaical!

Perhaps the best view from a bookshop in the work (Fjaerland, Norway)

An honesty bookshop on the side of the road, on the shores of Sognefjord, Norway

What is also interesting is that many of the bookshops are also specialty bookshops, selling books on local history, religious books, banned books, old books or books that may not be found elsewhere.

Les Chats Noirs, which specializes in books on social and libertarian movements

Obidos Biological Market, where you can browse a cookbook and pick out the ingredients on the spot (Portugal)

Book Towns is a great coffee table book and ideal to gift to the book lover who loves to travel. It is a book that is a testament to the love that people have of the printed written word, and to the ingenious ideas communities come up with, not only to survive, but in some cases to thrive through local artistry and craftsmanship. The love of books is universal as seen through the colorful pages of this book. It is heartwarming to read about the respect books are given in these towns.

The next time I travel, I will make it a point to take photos of the bookshops I visit. If you find yourself in a book town, stop and visit their bookshops and buy a book or two. You will be supporting the town, the printed word and your own love of reading.

Plenty of bargain books at the Bredevoort Market in Netherlands

Note: All photos provided by the publisher with permission to publish in this post.

Disclosure: Thanks to The Quarto Group for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Alex Johnson is a professional blogger and journalist, part of The Independent's online team. Alex runs Shedworking, which inspired the book Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution published by Frances Lincoln, The Micro Life, and curates Bookshelf, which was published as a book in 2012 by Thames & Hudson as Bookshelf.

Improbable Libraries, a survey of the most unusual and intriguing libraries around the world, was published by Thames & Hudson in April 2015. His book A Book of Book Lists was published in October 2017 by The British Library.

Alex lives in St Albans, London with his wife, three children, and plenty of books from all over the world.

Connect with Alex on Shedworking  ~ The Micro Life ~ BookshelfTwitter

Share this:


  1. Omg, yes that bookstore has the best view in the world!

  2. I love it. I too always look for unique bookstores when traveling.

    1. It just makes the visit all the more special when it involves books in some way.:-)

  3. Oh Laura this sounds absolutely wonderful, yes a gorgeous coffee table book and also one to plan trips around.

    1. You're right! It has made me want to travel to places I never heard of.

  4. this does sound like a beautiful coffee table book, I adore the pictures

    1. I love the pics too. Made me want to go visit all those book towns!


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