Forty-five Paradises of the printed word is the sub-title of Alex Johnson’s book “Book Towns”.
It’s a nicely put together hard cover book with colour photos depicting the official International Organisation of Book Towns twenty two members (the latest being Featherston – New Zealand)….plus another twenty three villages, towns or cities already pursuing the dreams of becoming recognized as Book Towns….or already famous in their part of the world as places of literary greatness.
Naturally the home of the Book Town movement, Hay-On-Wye in Wales gets a little more space in the book than anywhere else and deservedly so.
The general format is that each Book Town is introduced with some general information as to the history of the place and which person first had the idea of bringing the Book Town concept to the area….famous book shops….organisations in the area that promote books and writing….festivals and special events…plus a few colour photos of the book shops, the Book Town its self and people reading and posing with books.
Some book shops have little gimmicks to set them apart from their rivals such as the one pictured above in Wigtown, Scotland that has a bed on a mezzanine floor in the shop. The owner Shaun Bythell says it’s a nod to Shakespeare & Co book shop in Paris where writers and artists are allowed to sleep amid the books overnight.
It is a lovely coffee table type book. One to dip in and out of in a spare few minutes. It will certainly inspire you to want to visit some of these lovely locations. Most are in picturesque settings and are spread all over the world from the UK to New Zealand, The USA to Asia. Europe is well represented with official book towns in Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Finland, Germany and Denmark.
As it says on the blurb at the back of the book…..
“Amid the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, among the verdant green valleys of Wales, in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains and beyond, publishers and printmakers have banded together to form unique havens of literature. Book Towns forms the first directory of the best – some official members of the International Organisation of Book Towns, and others as yet untitled but every bit as charming. Combining practical travel advice and illuminating histories, it’s a must-have for literature-lovers the world over.”
Having worked my way through the book, I have added a lot of new places to my Must Visit list. Plans are afoot for a trip back to the UK in 2020 to visit the Book Towns of Hay-On-Wye in Wales, Sedbergh in England and Wigtown in Scotland by way of several independent book shops scattered through the Lake District.