The best books about bookstores

7 authors have picked their favorite books about bookstores and why they recommend each book.

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The Little Paris Bookshop

By Nina George,

Book cover of The Little Paris Bookshop

This is a novel that I read in one day, warming to the grieving protagonists who have found each other, and particularly struck by their first meal together—fish poached in cream and white wine, new potatoes roasted in garlic and rosemary, pears and cheese, and with a beautiful French wine to accompany it. In my mind romance can’t exist without meals prepared from scratch and wine to go with it. The other secret ingredient in the novel is books, and the combination of food and wine, a romance, and a love of books gives this book a permanent place in my library. In fact, I am rereading it.


Who am I?

I went to Paris the first time when I was nineteen. I was sitting in a cheap restaurant when a man entered carrying a burlap sack filled with escargots, and put some on my plate (all very unsanitary) for me to taste. Delicious! I was in France in the 1970s when Robert Parker was discovering French wine. (We didn’t meet then, but did after my series was published many years later.)  Subsequent stays in Paris and other areas of France (Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy) afforded me a food and wine sensibility that over decades has permeated my lifestyle, my friendships—and my writing.


I wrote...

Champagne: The Farewell

By Janet Hubbard,

Book cover of Champagne: The Farewell

What is my book about?

NYPD detective Max Maguire flies to France to attend her friend Chloé Marceau’s wedding at a grand estate in Champagne. The fairy-tale evening dissolves into mayhem when Chloé’s aunt Léa is found murdered hours after the event. Max tries to insinuate herself into the investigation, but is thwarted by the handsome aristocratic examining magistrate, who had also been a guest at the wedding. But Max has her ways, and soon the family’s long-held secrets begin to spill out like marbles from an overturned dish, leading to one clue after another. Olivier finds himself fascinated by the lively American, and over the next days they join forces, and through the process find themselves bonding over food and wine, and friends and family.

The Bookseller of Florence

By Ross King,

Book cover of The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

After you read about the chase of lost ancient manuscripts, you’ll want to know the story of this Florentine man of humble origins but great intellect who played a crucial role in disseminating these newly discovered texts in Europe and beyond. Along the way you’ll learn how books were made before the invention of the printing press, including a myriad of fascinating details about the production of parchment and paper, the manufacturing of inks and bindings, the creation of figures and illuminations, and the use of movable types.

You’ll step into the life of a famous Florentine bookshop, where humanists, political figures, and church people gathered and where, above all, magnificent books were made for royals and popes, books that were works of art in their own rights.


Who am I?

I am an art historian from Rome and a professor at the University of Virginia, where I also served as associate dean for the arts and humanities and chair of the art department. Ever since as an undergraduate I heard a lecture from a professor on how important science was for Renaissance artists, I have been fascinated with this topic. I look at scientific images, such as maps and diagrams, as works of art, and interpret famous paintings, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as scientific experiments. Among my books are The Marvel of Maps: Art, Cartography and Politics in the Renaissance, The Shadow Drawing. How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint, and the digital publication Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting.


I wrote...

The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint

By Francesca Fiorani,

Book cover of The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint

What is my book about?

Leonardo da Vinci has long been celebrated as the painter who gave us the Mona Lisa, and the inventor who anticipated the advent of airplanes and other technological marvels. But what was the connection between Leonardo the painter and Leonardo the scientist? Historians have long supposed that Leonardo became increasingly interested in science as he grew older and turned his insatiable curiosity in new directions. 

I offer an entirely new account of Leonardo the artist and Leonardo the scientist, and why they were one and the same man. Ranging from the teeming streets of Florence to the most delicate brushstrokes on the surface of the Mona Lisa, I argue that Leonardo became familiar with science when he was still an apprentice in a Florence studio—and used his understanding of science to perfect his painting techniques. 

The Bookseller of Kabul

By Åsne Seierstad,

Book cover of The Bookseller of Kabul

The widows of Kabul called my wife “Frishta” (Angel). Janna loved working with them and she loves this book. Åsne Seierstad writes about the experiences of Afghan women and their prospects, marriages, hopes, and fears. Seierstad lived with a family dominated by a patriarch who loved books; for which the Taliban, also had a—literally—burning passion.


Who am I?

To stop us from reopening a school for girls, a mob of angry and well-armed Pashtun men threatened to shoot my workers. I surprised myself. “If you are going to shoot my workmen, you will have to shoot me first!” My wife, Janna, and I bred cattle in outback Australia. On the weekends we played tennis. Yet, in 1984 we began a twenty-four-year adventure battling corruption, injustice, and disadvantage in the deserts, mountains, and cities of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I dug wells, built schools, and helped restore the eyesight of thousands of Afghans; until I myself became blind.


I wrote...

Shoot Me First: A Cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-Four Years in the Hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

By Grant Lock,

Book cover of Shoot Me First: A Cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-Four Years in the Hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What is my book about?

Shoot Me First is a gripping personal account of life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The author offers intriguing insights into the culture of the tribal territories that straddle the two countries. This is home to the Taliban, an untamed land that continues to absorb so much of the world’s attention and military endeavour. Lock is shrewd and laconic but above all compassionate.

The Last Bookshop in London

By Madeline Martin,

Book cover of The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II

Martin and I shared the same agent for many years, which is how I came across this novel. It’s set in London and has the most divine main character whom I immediately fell in love with. I find that most readers don’t want too much heavy historical information when they read for pleasure, and Martin has just the right balance of history with her fiction. Also, who wouldn’t love reading about a bookstore that is desperately trying to survive the war!


Who am I?

I’ve read WWII fiction since I was a teenager, but it took me a long time to begin writing it! In fact, I started my career writing contemporary fiction, and it wasn’t until I went back to university and completed a Master's degree in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) that I was brave enough to write my first historical fiction novel. I genuinely love the genre, and as a writer I’m passionate about telling the largely untold tales of women from the war – ordinary women doing extraordinary things! I love nothing more than discovering something incredible women did during WWII, and then creating a story around that moment in time. 


I wrote...

Under a Sky of Memories

By Soraya M. Lane,

Book cover of Under a Sky of Memories

What is my book about?

Sicily, 1943. Three American women, all nurses in the Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron, are determined to do all they can for their country. When they’re selected for a daring mission, the women are proud to play their part. But disaster strikes when their plane crash-lands behind enemy lines in occupied Albania, and they find themselves trapped, cut off from all communication with the squadron, and in terrifying and unimaginable danger.

As days and nights pass without hope of rescue, the group must travel on foot across unfamiliar terrain thick with Nazis and their violent local allies. Can Evelyn, Vita, and Dot survive the perilous journey through enemy territory—and finally find their way home?

Diary Of A Bookseller

By Sean Bythell,

Book cover of Diary Of A Bookseller

This non-fiction book is uplifting, funny, and heartbreaking in equal measure as Shaun Bythell shares his diary of owning Scotland’s biggest second-hand book store. We get to meet the eccentric readers who frequent his bookshop and learn first-hand about the struggles of owning a small business, and the importance of books and the community.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by books since a young age. Not just reading the stories but also how they’re written, the cover design, literary agents, and the publishing industry in general. I’ve written five novels (four of which are USA Today bestsellers) and my work has been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. My second novel, Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone, was made into a Hallmark movie in 2021. I still get excited about generating ideas for characters to take on unusual and joyous journeys of discovery. I’m a huge fan of reading books about the craft of writing, and I especially love novels about bookshops and libraries.


I wrote...

The Messy Lives of Book People

By Phaedra Patrick,

Book cover of The Messy Lives of Book People

What is my book about?

A heart-warming, feel-good story from the USA Today bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and The Library of Lost and Found.

Mother of two Liv Green scrapes a living as a cleaner to make ends meet, finding escape in books while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So, she can't believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn of her dying wish: for Liv to complete Essie’s final novel. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Turtle Diary

By Russell Hoban,

Book cover of Turtle Diary

Turtle Diary is one of my all-time favorite books. The intimate tone pulls the reader in immediately. Hoban alternates point of view between William and Neera, two lonely Londoners who accomplish a heroic feat and manage to rescue themselves in the process. The writing is spare and beautiful, peppered with delightful asides and observations: “She had a theatre programme in her hand, fresh air and perfume had come in with her. Her blonde hair and leopardskin coat looked as if they’d go out even if she stayed at home.”

Who am I?

Ever since I was a child, sitting on fallen logs in the forest and making notes on the wildlife, I have been an admirer of animals and their mysteries. That animals feel pain, fear, and affection is obvious, and while we are warned against anthropomorphism, I think the greater mistake is in limiting them to the range of human feelings. I am especially intrigued with the subject of consciousness, believing that all creatures possess their own version of it. In studying the cognizance of other beings, we become better humans, more aware of the unity of all living things. While we have no idea how far we can go in our understanding of animal behavior, it is thrilling to consider the possibilities of this frontier.


I wrote...

Survival Skills: Stories

By Jean Ryan,

Book cover of Survival Skills: Stories

What is my book about?

The characters who inhabit Jean Ryan’s graceful, imaginative collection of stories are survivors of accidents and acts of nature, of injuries both physical and emotional. Ryan writes of beauty and aging, of love won and lost—with characters enveloped in the mysteries of the natural world and the animal kingdom.

In “Greyhound,” a woman brings home a rescued dog for her troubled partner in hopes that they might heal one another—while the dog in “What Gretel Knows” is the keeper of her owner’s deepest secrets. In “Migration,” a recently divorced woman retreats to a lakefront cabin where she is befriended by a mysterious Canada goose just as autumn begins to turn to winter. As a tornado ravages three towns in “The Spider in the Sink,” a storm chaser’s wife spares the life of a spider as she anxiously waits for her husband to return. And in “A Sea Change,” a relationship falls victim to a woman’s obsession with the world below the waves.

The Bookman's Tale

By Charlie Lovett,

Book cover of The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

Antiquarian Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale is informed by his expertise. TBT is a paean to books, their production, archival, transmission, forgery. This book should appeal to readers who love books. The story of Peter, a present-day apprentice rare books dealer, alternates with that of Bartholomew Harbottle, a crooked Elizabethan book dealer, a friend of William Shakespeare. 

The book follows a Shakespearean document as it passes from hand to hand over time. At first, the document appears real. Then forged. Then partially forged. Then perhaps real. Then a perfect copy shows up. Which one is real? Which one is fake? Are both fake? Therein lies a tale.


Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University, and I have taught English for 30 years. I have studied and taught Shakespeare, Tudor drama, English linguistics, the Reformation, and various other aspects in the literary and cultural history of the 16th century. The 16th century is a time of great upheaval and the more I study it, the more I am fascinated by how pivotal this epoch is in the creation of the modern world, for better and for worse. I seek out books that chart, from grandest to most intimate, this momentous time’s transformations.


I wrote...

Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

By Theodore Irvin Silar,

Book cover of Lady Grace's Revels: A Tale of Elizabethan England

What is my book about?

It is Michaelmas in rural Renaissance England, and Thomas Smith and William Philpott, scriveners, cannot believe their luck. They have been invited to revels at the manor house of Lady Grace Atwater, Countess of Burnham. There will be food, drink, dancing, and gracious company culled from a diverse assortment of county societies. Thomas has even written a poem for the occasion. All goes well until a certain Sir John, a master swordsman out to better himself by whatever means, makes an entrance. Soon, all is not well, and a cascade of revelations lays open the decadent underside of the glamourous aristocratic life. 

Slippery Creatures

By KJ Charles,

Book cover of Slippery Creatures

I’m stretching this category because neither of the protagonists here are actually cops, but Kim Secretan does work for a shadowy government agency and there’s a real mystery in this three-book series, though there is also a lovely romance between Kim and World War I veteran and bookseller Will Darling. KJ Charles is one of my all-time favorite authors, and everything she publishes becomes a must-read for me.


Who am I?

My first published novel, Mahu, was about a gay cop coming out of the closet in Honolulu while investigating a dangerous case. I didn’t even realize there was a whole genre of gay mysteries until I’d finished it, but since then I have made it my business to read as much as I can of these books, both classics and new ones. My reading has deepened my understanding only of my protagonist’s life, but of my own.


I wrote...

Mahu: A Mahu Investigation

By Neil Plakcy,

Book cover of Mahu: A Mahu Investigation

What is my book about?

Kimo Kanapa'aka's world turns upside down in Mahu. At 32, he has reached the pinnacle of his profession, detective on the Honolulu Police Department's homicide squad, based at the Waikiki station. But a difficult murder case, as well as turmoil in his personal life, is about to threaten everything he has worked for.

A life-threatening drug bust in chapter 1 makes Kimo realize that it's time to stop lying to himself. He's drawn to the Rod and Reel Club, a gay bar in Waikiki, where he has a couple of beers and begins the long process of accepting his attraction to other men. Leaving the club, though, he stumbles onto two men dropping a dead body in an alley, and he launches himself into a nightmare where his private life becomes public news.

The Templar Legacy

By Steve Berry,

Book cover of The Templar Legacy

I owe a lot to Steve Berry. He was local to the area I lived in when I started writing. I was in the same critique group, albeit at a different time, as Berry. I had met him several times and listened to his stories of how he got started writing. Around the time I finished my first manuscript, post-editing, Berry made The New York Times bestseller list. When he was doing a local book signing, I approached him, manuscript in hand, and asked if he'd be kind enough to read it and tell me what he thought of it. Certainly, I valued his opinion and expertise. Not only did he return a good review, he also blurbed my first novel—The Savannah Project. About the book: read it! Exciting, full of wonderful twists, controversial. 


Who am I?

I cut my teeth loving the intrigue of the spy world. Days of old TV shows like Man from U.N.C.L.E. (the original not the remake). All the James Bond movies—old and new. As a child, I had a Man from U.N.C.L.E. spy kit, equipped with a miniature camera and all. It seemed only fitting that when I started writing, I stayed with what I loved. The espionage thriller genre has evolved over time to a more sophisticated, action-packed storyline…which is right up my alley.


I wrote...

The Savannah Project

By Chuck Barrett,

Book cover of The Savannah Project

What is my book about?

The truth can be a dangerous thing. 

Jake Pendleton, aided by an unlikely partner – an air traffic controller named Gregg Kaplan – must untangle the webs of deceit in order to find a vicious killer. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is sacred. Nobody is safe.

Strangled Prose

By Joan Hess,

Book cover of Strangled Prose

As owner of a dusty bookshop and mother of a teen daughter, widow Claire Malloy is hesitant to host a book party for a smutty romance author. But the two women are friends, so she does, and this being a cozy mystery, murder results. Claire’s droll wit, the funny situations, and the sparring between Claire and the handsome detective keep the pages turning in this well-plotted mystery. Strangled Prose is the first book in the Claire Malloy series.


Who am I?

I’ve been addicted to reading and writing mystery novels since I picked up my first Nancy Drew. But in addition to a good puzzle, I also love a good laugh and grew up watching classic screwball comedies. I’ve written a dozen funny cozy mysteries now with more in the works. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!


I wrote...

Big Shot: A Small Town Cozy Mystery

By Kirsten Weiss,

Book cover of Big Shot: A Small Town Cozy Mystery

What is my book about?

Hi. I’m Alice. The number one secret to my success as a bodyguard? Staying under the radar. But when a public disaster blew up my career and my reputation, my perfect, solo life took a hard left turn to small-town Nowhere, Nevada. And to bodies. Lots of dead bodies…

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