Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? At a time when so many events have been cancelled and travel is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, dreaming is more important than ever. Here are five book towns to dream about (and where one day, hopefully, you’ll be able to live your dreams).
Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…
Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival, a literary event that (normally) travels to other cities throughout the year (click the link to watch this year’s events online). There’s also a castle.
A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.” (No word on what’s happening with the festival in 2020, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s cancelled.)
One of the newer book towns, Featherston has already established itself as a place for book lovers. Its annual Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, usually held in May, was postponed, but a Words in Winter event is currently taking place until August– key features include author talks and book signings.
Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with stores featuring books on topics ranging from American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks and craft books. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers (currently postponed but there may be virtual events).
Sidney is Canada’s only book town, as far as I can tell (something they’ve apparently been claiming since the 1990s). Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, Sidney bookstores include new, used, and antiquarian books on everything from military history to classic children’s fiction. There’s a special focus on local authors and culture, and many stores hold regular events. Most books are in English, but you can also find a good selection of Japanese and Chinese titles. There’s also the annual Sidney LitFest (returning in 2021).
These are just a few of the dozens of book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on). You can find out about more book towns here and here.
If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥
As someone who’s moved enough times that I’ve lost count, I have plenty of experience in the unenviable task of moving a large book collection. It’s easy enough to move books when you have only a few– you can tuck them in with other belongings, or pack a box or two. But what if you have hundreds or thousands? Get ready for a lot of work…
Start packing your books as soon as you know you’ll be moving, because it’s a slower process than it seems. You’ll also need time to gather enough boxes and other packing materials.
Sort As You Go
Normally I would never advise getting rid of books, but when you have to move them, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Take a second as you pack to ask whether you really want each book. If you decide you can part with a few, try donating them, giving them to friends, or having a yard sale (a good way to get rid of other stuff you don’t need anymore too). While you’re at it, you might also want to start sorting by size and weight; this is going to come in handy.
Use the Right Boxes
Size: I’ve had movers tell me that bigger, heavier (but fewer) boxes are preferable; others have complained about the weight after the first dozen or so. Ultimately, I think it’s best to stick to smaller boxes that won’t be too heavy– everyone’s backs will thank you.
New or Recycled: Either is fine as long as they’re strong, clean, and dry.
Other options: Some people recommend using rolling suitcases instead of boxes. I disagree. Suitcases tend to have rounded interior corners, which will leave you with a lot of wasted space, while also possibly damaging covers. The wheels might not be able to handle the weight of books, either (and wheels or not, at some point you’ll have to pick the thing up, and carrying a heavy box is easier than trying to hold a heavy suitcase by the handle). Most importantly, you’d need a lot of suitcases for anything more than a few dozen books.
First, make sure the bottom of your box is taped well (use extra tape if your boxes are recycled). Line the box with packing paper (or bubble wrap if the books are fragile).
Although ideally you’ll keep books from the same shelf together, that doesn’t always work out. You get the best results when you pack the same size books together (you quickly learn how many sizes of books there are once you start packing them). Keep similar weights together too– you don’t want very heavy books crushing lighter books.
You can pack books in three positions: flat on their backs, spine down, or standing up with the spines against the box’s sides. If you’re laying them flat then put heaviest books/hardcovers on the bottom and lighter books/paperbacks as you fill the box. I like to also put a layer of hardcovers on top, if possible, to help protect the paperbacks underneath.
If your books are somewhat valuable, you might want to wrap them individually in (preferably acid free) packing paper. If they’re antiques or very valuable, wrap them individually in acid free paper, place stiff cardboard between each book, and line the box with bubble wrap and paper.
If you have extra space, fill it with packing paper or something light (like clothing).
Use a marker to write the contents on the box (at the very least mark the box as books so you can more easily find them later). Mark boxes of antique or delicate books as fragile. If you have the time and patience you can keep a separate detailed list of specific contents. Number your boxes too– it’ll help you keep track.
Leave a Few Out
I have an e-reader and a library card but I still need to keep a few books unpacked– just in case. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to do the same. These “survival” books can be tucked into a bag at the last minute so you’re never without something to read.
In the Truck
Professional movers know what they’re doing, but if you’re moving yourself it might not occur to you not to stack boxes of books. Things shift inside trucks and stacked heavy boxes can cause a lot of damage if they fall on lighter or more delicate items. If possible, limit their placement to a single layer on the floor.
If you need to put your books into storage, make sure they’re kept in a clean, dry, temperature-controlled environment. You might want to seal any gaps in the boxes with extra tape to give a little more protection against dirt and bugs. If they’re going to be stored for more than a couple of months, use acid free paper to wrap them and line the boxes. And check the tape before taking them out of storage– old tape can dry out.
Tip Your Movers
Moving is hard enough work without adding in heavy boxes of books. In Canada and the US the guideline for tipping is $20 to $25 per mover for a half day, or $40 to $50 per mover for a full day– plus a bit extra for “heavy furniture” (or stacks of books). If you enlisted the help of family and friends instead of pros, don’t forget them, either. While you don’t usually thank friends with cash (although they probably wouldn’t object if you tried), make sure you at least feed them. You might want to give some gift cards too, because friends who’ll help you move are gold, and friends who’ll help you move books are priceless.
Nothing makes your new place feel more like home than getting your books onto shelves. Books should be one of the first things you unpack– not only for the homey feel, but also to get all those boxes out of the way.
Learn from My Experience
In my last move the movers taped the actual shelves from my bookcases together. I guess it was easier to move and store them that way, but after a few months in storage the glue from the tape had melded to the wood. It came off with “goo gone” and a lot of scrubbing, but I had better things to do with my time. If your movers insist on bundling shelves together, tell them to use twine instead of tape (or at least ask that they wrap them in paper or bubble wrap first).
A commenter suggests adding silica gel packets to the boxes to help keep moisture levels down. I think this is a great suggestion! You can buy them at craft stores, hardware stores and various places online.
A commenter recommends wearing soft jersey gloves when unpacking books. The gloves will protect books from sweat, skin oils, or possibly blood if you get a paper cut, as well as protecting your hands from drying out or getting cut.
Do you have any other tips to add? What’s your experience with moving books? Share in the comments…
As much as I love reading, I’m not going to lie– sometimes it can be frustrating. Whether it’s too many books and not enough time, or inconveniently getting the feels in public, read on to find out how I deal with the downside of bibliophilia…
You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
Between my physical books and ebooks, my TBR is probably pretty close to that number! I have a haphazard system where I alternate between something random from the priority TBR pile on my nightstand and something off a list I’m trying to get through. Every so often I’ll also throw in a book that caught my attention and needs to be read immediately.
You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you put it down or are you committed?
I used to always finish, no matter what, but I don’t have the patience for that anymore. There are too many good books out there to waste time on the ones you don’t enjoy.
The end of the year is coming and you’re behind on your reading challenge. Do you try to catch up? And if so, how?
I don’t do reading challenges– they seem like a great way to take the joy out of reading.
The covers of a series you love do not match. How do you cope?
If I really, really love the series I might try to find copies with matching covers to replace the odd ones; otherwise, I live with different covers (although it does annoy me).
Everyone and their mothers love a book that you do not. Who do you bond with over your shared feelings?
You’re reading a book in public and you’re about to start crying. How do you deal?
It’s rare* for a book to make me cry, and even rarer for me to cry in public, so I doubt this would ever be an issue. If it happened, though, I’d probably stop reading and go look for a bathroom.
(*The last time was a few months ago when I was reading Elizabeth, the Queen, a biography of Elizabeth I. Needless to say, I was not expecting that. At least I was home.)
The sequel to a book you loved just came out but you’ve forgotten a lot of what happens. Are you going to reread it?
Definitely! I might even reread if I haven’t forgotten anything.
You do not want anyone borrow your books. How do you politely say no when someone asks?
I let people know that they’re welcome to come over and read here, but the books don’t leave the house. My SO, meanwhile, has a long list of rules on how to handle his books, which seems to discourage would-be borrowers. But there’s also something to be said about supporting authors by borrowing from a library instead of a friend (and you help support the library too).
You have picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over this reading slump?
I’ve actually never had that problem. I guess I’d try to figure out what was causing my lack of interest in the books and then do my best to solve that. Or I might read something different, like comic books, for a while. I’d also try not to stress about it– the need to read always returns.
There are so many books coming out that you are dying to read. How many do you end up buying?
I’ll put them all on my wishlist and get them eventually, although I might get the one I’m most excited about right away.
After you purchase all of these books that you’ve been dying to read, how long do they sit on your shelves before you get to them?
I admit it, they can wait for a while before I get to them (sometimes years), but I do get to them. I’m starting to think I’m the only person left who still finds value in old books.
So, what do you think? How do you cope with reader problems? Share in the comments…
From the smallest neighbourhood library to the mega-libraries some cities have built, libraries are amazing places. They’re community hubs, bastions of knowledge (the librarians, as well as the books), respites from the chaos of everyday life, and as Doris Lessing said, “the most democratic of institutions.” There are people who argue that libraries are pointless in this digital age, a waste of resources for cash-strapped municipalities. Those people are wrong (I’m also willing to bet they haven’t been to a library in the last decade, and probably also brag they’re “too busy” to read).
For those of you who know the value of a library, I’m sharing a few of the standouts around the world (although there are many more out there)…
If you cringe when you think about the destruction of the original Library of Alexandria, then you can take some comfort in knowing that Egypt has built a new library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, with help from around the globe. Besides a massive (about 5 million volumes) book collection (including rare manuscripts), the Bibliotheca also hosts an international book fair, holds art exhibitions, and has four museums. Tours are offered in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. Find out more.
AUSTRIAN NATIONAL LIBRARY
This library in Vienna is a work of art on its own, featuring marble statues, columns, and frescoes. It boasts an impressive collection of archives, including a map department with 295,000 sheet maps, 700 globes, 100 reliefs and models of castles, and more. It also has its own museums, including the Papyrus Museum and the Esperanto Museum. Not surprisingly, they offer guided tours. Find out more.
REAL GABINETE PORTUGUÊS DE LEITURA
Another stunning library, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio was recently renovated and restored. The collection features Portuguese and Brazilian literature, but this library is worth a visit just to admire the beauty of the surroundings. Find out more (in Portuguese) here.
Toronto Reference Library
Local pride insists that I can’t make a list of extraordinary libraries without including the Toronto Reference Library. There’s good reason to include it, though. The Reference Library not only offers an impressive collection of books in multiple languages, it also features a Canadian Literature Collection, Arthur Conan Doyle collection, a book printing service (indie authors take note), an art gallery, and even two electric pianos for all your practicing needs. Find out more.
Described as a “city of books,” the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City was designed to help you get lost among the stacks. The library is actually five libraries in one, with collections based on five famous Mexican intellectuals. Although the Biblioteca misses the mark in a major way by including only men as its five inspirations, the library itself is a book-lover’s dream. It also features art throughout, a music collection, guided tours, and 26,000 sq metres (6.4 acres) of gardens. Learn more here.
LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT
Canada’s Library of Parliament in Ottawa is a beautiful space with an amazing collection. Or so I’ve heard, since it’s open only to Parliamentarians. Not only is the library closed to the public, but they don’t even offer tours. I think it’s time that changed, don’t you? Read more here.
What do you love most about libraries? What’s your favourite library, or one you would love to visit? Share in the comments 🙂