Book Towns

Forty-five Paradises of the Printed Word

Author: Alex Johnson

Publisher: Frances Lincoln (UK)

Book towns are part of a growing global movement. In hamlets, villages and towns around the world, like-minded booksellers, calligraphers, bookbinders, curators, publishers and architects are coming together to create this new world. This is the first book bring all of these book towns together, offering a unique history of each one. A book town is simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book related industries.

The movement started with Richard Booth in Hay-on-Wye in Wales in 1960s. From the start, the driving force has been to encourage sustainable tourism and help regenerate communities faced with economic collapse and soaring unemployment. The results of the book town crusaders are have been impressive. They are attracting more visitors who then stay in the local hostels and guest houses, dine in the local eateries go shopping in the town shops and gradually rebuild the local economy.

Although they all operate independently, many are members of the International Organisation of Book Towns. The IOBT aims to raise interesting the book town ethos and runs a biennial festival in one of the member towns.

Inevitably not all book towns have stayed the course. But on the brighter side, new locations are in the pipeline. Indian authorise have recently begun what they hope will become a ‘book village’ network. This book documents two Indian examples namely Bhilar, Maharashtra and College Street, in Kolkata.

Simple and straightforward illustration on the cover represents the content well. Profusely printed photographs of the book towns from around the globe are spectacular. Alex has given picture credits to more than a hundred twenty photographers in the book! The paper used, the size of the book (21mm x 16mm), book design, the fonts used collectively makes the book tempting to any prospective bibliophile.

The author, Alex Johnson is a journalist and blogger. He has many interesting titles to his credit. A Book of Book Lists, Improbable libraries, Bookshelf, and Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution are to list a few. He lives in St Albans with his wife, three children, and plenty of books from all over the world.

At a time when libraries are an endangered species and independent bookshops struggle agains many odes, book towns are beacons of hope in the fight to keep the traditions book alive. Please visit them and buy a book or two.

(Adapted from the introduction) 

Auswaf Ahsan

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