Another new book that provides a serene and humorous escape is Shaun Bythell’s Confessions of a Bookseller. A follow-up to his sardonic Diary of a Bookseller, which we reviewed in fall 2018, Confessions is also based on his life as the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Dealing with oddball customers (and staffers), buying collections, and running literary events, Bythell remains an unwavering correspondent whose daily rambles reminds us of the joy in real bookshops. The book made me want to jump on the next plane to Scotland … after the pandemic, that is.
I had hoped to visit The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in western Massachusetts, again this summer, but that too will have to be postponed. Thankfully I have Sheila Liming’s book, What a Library Means to a Woman, to soften the blow. Since 2015, Liming, associate professor at Champlain College, has been working on a digital database of Wharton’s library of 2,700 books. Her illuminating book synthesizes that research and explores the connection between libraries, authorship, and self-creation. Bibliophiles will particularly enjoy her concluding chapter on the late bookseller George Ramsden’s decades-long effort to secure Wharton’s library.
Author Kathryn Harkup’s Death by Shakespeare is intriguing in its premise and insightful in its delivery. The Bard found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, from poison and plague to snakebite and stabbing, all of which Harkup investigates against the backdrop of Elizabethan history and science. You can read an excerpt via the Folger Shakespeare Library.
If a fictional escape is preferred, here are three I can highly recommend: