Six authors on what bookshops mean to them

20 Oct 2016

What comes to mind when you think of bookshops? Perhaps its a favourite independent you frequent weekly? Or maybe a long defunct secondhand shop from your childhood springs into your mind’s eye? In the pages of Browse: The World in Bookshops, 14 brilliant writers ponder what bookshops mean to them, here are just a few samples from their insightful, enchanting essays.

Ali Smith

The smell of paperback ink and paper was its own intoxication. The books seemed to tower higher than the room. I went, and so did most of the money I earned on a Saturday, £10 a day working in the restaurant at Littlewoods where the other Saturday girls made fun of me for spend- ing my pay packet on so many books every week, and the full-time women were unexpectedly kindly about my being so bookish. What did you get this time?

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Bookshops, for a writer, are places of transformation. When a writer is asked to choose his favourite bookshops, he won’t generally pick the one he most often visits, but rather the scenes that inspire his nostalgia: the nostalgia of starting out. He’ll remember the tough years when his literary vocation was an unresolved compulsion, because there is no fixed and sure method of turning a novice into a novelist.

Ian Sinclair on bookshops

14 Oct 2016

In the pages of Browse: The World in Bookshops, edited by Henry Hitchings, 14 brilliant writers from around the world ponder what bookshops mean to them. Ali Smith muses on secondhand bookshops, Ian Sansom recounts his time working at Foyles on Charing Cross Road and Elif Shafak discusses the literary Istanbul of her youth.

In his piece, British writer Ian Sinclair memorialises a dusty and now defunct treasure trove of a bookshop named (rather wonderfully) Bookman’s Halt. Read his essay now and browse the shelves of this long-gone ‘book-pit.’

The shock of being confronted by the handwritten CLOSING SALE notice hit me like a family bereavement. On Bohemia Road in St Leonards-on-Sea, where fugitive operations peddle war surplus survivalist gear, plastic duck lures, electrified invalid carriages, knitting wool, carnival masks and PVC nurses’ outfits, they don’t go in for seasonal stock-clearance gimmicks. The stock in Bookmans Halt (no apostrophe, please) is organic: a colony of contented lifers. Armpit tomes mature in the perpetual twilight like mushrooms in a damp cellar. The critical mass of dead paper sustains the integrity of the building. It smells, in the best way, of suspended mortality.

Read on >


Crush: A Sneak Peek

11 Oct 2016

Crush, the latest book from French master of noir Frédéric Dard, is here and it’s just as thrilling and unsettling as its predecessors. Dripping with tension and yearning, Crush is a chilling Fifties suspense story of youthful naivety, dark obsession – and the slippery slope to murder.

Seventeen-year-old Louise Lacroix is desperate to escape her dreary life. So on her way home from work every evening she takes a detour past the enchanting house of Jess and Thelma Rooland – a wealthy and glamorous American couple – where the sun always seems to shine.

When Louise convinces the Roolands to employ her as their maid, she thinks she’s in heaven. But soon their seemingly perfect life begins to unravel. What terrible secrets are they hiding?

Can’t wait to find out more? Immerse yourself in the first chapter of Crush right now.


Five fictional detectives from around the world

11 Oct 2016

The Mystery of the Three Orchids is the third in Italian novelist Augusto De Angelis’ (1888-1945) series of detective novels featuring Inspector Carlo De Vincenzi. The story takes place one of Milan’s great fashion houses, owned by Chicago emigrée Cristiana O’Brian. De Vicenzi is called upon on the afternoon of the showing of a new collection when Cristiana discovers a dead body lying on her bed. The Inspector is confronted with a myriad of conflicting clues and information, and when the murderer strikes again, he must rely on his aptitude for following psychological clues over the apparent logical conclusions to lead him to the true culprit.

We here at Pushkin HQ, much like the original Italian audience, have been charmed by the cultured De Vicenzi, nicknamed “the poet” by his fellow police officers. Our discovery of De Vicenzi got us wondering how many other great fictional sleuths there are hidden in the shadows of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple et al, the giants of the detective world. Here’s a short round-up of who we think are some of the best off-piste literary detectives from these shores and beyond.


8 Unusual Bookshops from Around the World

06 Oct 2016

On shelves today is the brilliant Browse: The World in Bookshops, a delightful musing on bookshops around the world, by an award-winning cast of fifteen writers from Ali Smith to Elif Shafak. To celebrate this veritable bookshop bible, let us take you on a tour of the most eccentric and unusual bookshops in the world. From bookstores floating on Regent’s Canal to literary speakeasies squirrelled away in Manhattan apartment blocks, these are surely some of the most magical shelves to browse…

John King Used and Rare Books, Michigan

Installed in an abandoned 1940s glove factory in Detroit, John King Books is something of a Michigan institution. As you make your way through the five stories of floor-to-ceiling shelves, mostly marked out by hand-drawn signs and maps, you’ll be sure to discover an out-of-print gem or rare first edition you’ve been hunting for.

Acqua Alta, Venice

A characteristically chaotic kind of bookshop, Acqua Alta (translating as ‘high water’ in Italian) is spread across several rambling rooms, using a gondola, rowing boats and even bathtubs as makeshift bookshelves for the towering piles of new and second-hand books dominating its floors. There’s even a pile of ancient encyclopaedias out back which double as a staircase to an excellent vantage point to drink in Venice’s canals.


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