Bookstores and libraries are among my favorite places to
waste time feed my intellectual curiosity and when I’m not in one, I want to read about them. For serious book nerds like me, there is something delightfully meta about reading books about bookstores. You get all of the plotting and characterizations of good fiction set in a magical land full of ideas.
And the following list of books set in bookstores will deliver on that magic. Even though all of the stories are primarily set in bookshops, they vary widely in terms of genre and character arc. How about a store with mysterious texts, or set on a barge, or in an antiquarian bookshop. Or maybe you’d like to explore characters who are falling in love, grieving, fighting evil magic, solving mysteries, somewhat discombobulated, or being gay at a time when it’s not so safe to be out.
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There are a ton of books about bookstores and we aren’t going to list them all here. But we have curated a list for you that includes books with a Goodreads score of 3.5 (or higher) with a wide range of genre and character types.
And if you really love this whole meta book nerd thing, we’ve also got related lists for books featuring librarians as the main character, books set in libraries, books about books (texts, maps and manuscripts), and books about reading and having a book-ish life.
Our 5 Fave Books Set in Bookstores
There are some books that have really stuck with us, either because they had unusual elements, are under the radar, challenged us, or simply gave us all the feels. Here are those top five– but keep scrolling because we’re recommending 20 bookstore books in total.
The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
Yes, there was a recent movie made of this story- but we think that the book is really worth it.
A.J. is having a very hard go of it. His wife has died, his bookstore isn’t doing well and he’s lost his beloved collection of Poe poems. He’s becoming more reclusive and is assuming the role of the curmudgeon. But A.J. has a support network that’s determined to help him rise above it. We don’t want to spoil it, but then a thing happens which really turns him around.
The book’s setting on a cute island is perfect. and the plot delivers on all the feels.
If you’ve already read and liked A.J. Fikry, try Zevin’s newer book- we have a discussion guide for Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
This book is a genre bender featuring a mysterious bookstore with strong elements of cyber-punk. It reads like Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind) and William Gibson (Neuromancer) had a literary baby.
Clay works at the titular bookstore, but he doesn’t really understand what’s going on there. People come and go, checking out bizarre volumes in some sort of murky arrangement with Mr. Penumbra, the store’s owner. Pretty soon, Clay ends up on a National Treasure type adventure with secret societies, techno-crypto code texts, and a lot of high-stakes puzzles to solve.
Bookshop of Yesterdays, Amy Meyerson
Miranda grew up hanging out in the stacks of her uncle’s bookstore. But after he has a falling out with her mother, she never sees her him again. So, Miranda was very surprised when she learns of his death and her inheritance of the store, which is now struggling.
She goes out to LA to take possession, only to find that her late uncle has left her a series of clues in the form of a scavenger hunt. As she follows the clues, she learns more about the store, her uncle’s past and she unearths the secret which caused the family fracture.
The book has lots of cozy bookstore vibes and some tender family drama.
A Novel Bookstore, Laurence Cosse
(Alison Anderson, translator)
This off-the-radar pic from Europa Editions has never gotten much attention but the story offers a great high/low mix of “litrachure” and dark mystery.
Ivan, a world traveler, and Francesca, an Italian heiress own a very unusual type of Parisian bookstore. This is no Barnes & Noble, with a promo-oriented front table littered with pop fiction. They only carry “good literature”, chosen by a secret committee with idiosyncratic tastes. The store becomes immensely popular with customers, but it’s bedeviling to the publishing companies. Dark doings start to happen and Ivan, Francesca, and the committee need to figure out what’s going on…and how to protect themselves.
The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George
This is one of my favorite books about bookstores and here are three reasons why:
- The bookshop is set in a barge on the Seine, which is the best setting ever for a bookshop.
- Monsieur Perdu considers himself a “literary apothecary”, which means that he doesn’t give you the book that you think you want, but rather, the one that he thinks you need. And as any indy bookshop customer knows, this is what defines an excellent bookstore.
- Poor Perdu is suffering from a broken heart and is in the throes of an existential crisis. So, the plot of the book follows him (and a few wacky friends) as he cuts his mooring and goes off on a wild adventure.
(PS: there is an actual floating bookshop in London that sits on a canal behind the Kings Cross train station. Pic below should you decide to book a ticket and visit Word on Water.)
15 More Great Books About Bookstores
The Last Bookshop in London, Madeline Martin
This book is based upon a true story and it celebrates the people (and a particular bookshop) which survived the Blitz during WWII. In 1939, Grace Bennett moves to London with her best friend Viv. As she toils away in her uncle’s shop, she hopes that he will give her a coveted reference so that she can work at Harrods with Viv.
When that’s not forthcoming, Grace takes a job at the Primrose Hills bookstore. She’s not much of a reader, at least at first. But through her bookstore work and her burgeoning relationship with customer George, she becomes an avid reader and she begins to breathe life back into the store.
This is a sweet story with themes of resilience, hope and the unmeasurable value of a good read.
The Lost for Words Bookshop, Stephanie Butland
Bookseller Loveday Cardew prefers books to people, in fact she even has tattoos from some of her favorite first lines in books. She’s prefers to hang out (and hide out) in the book store, and she keeps her painful childhood secrets very close to her vest.
One day, she happens to come across a book of poetry outside on the pavement, picks it up and puts up a found notice in the shop. When poet Nathan comes into the store to retrieve the book, he sees through Loveday’s crusty exterior and a friendship develops.
The book is a quirky, quiet, slow burn that explores Loveday’s interior life with themes of heartache, forgiveness, and inner-strength percolating throughout.
Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crawley
As kids, Henry and Rachel were best friends, well more than that really as Rachel was in love with Henry. When she moved away, she tucked a love letter into a book inside his family’s bookshop. Rachel returns to town to recover from the tragic death of her brother. She mortified of her past love letter, but she can’t avoid Henry as she’s now working in the bookshop.
Henry has his own issues, most notably the impending divorce of his parents and uncertainty around the future of the bookshop. Henry and Rachel rekindle their friendship, but they each must take a leap of faith at a time when doing so may be more than they can each handle.
The book carries a lot of warm fuzzy emotions with themes of love, loss and facing your limitations.
Slippery Creatures, KJ Charles
Sure, Slippery Creatures is squarely in the “books set in bookstores” genre. But it’s also a genre-bender with strong elements of gay romance and spy thriller.
Like many men who served during WWI, Will Darling came back with a lot of scars, unsure about how to move forward. When he inherits his uncle’s chaotic bookstore, he decides to try and make a go of it.
He’s soon receiving murky threats from criminals and the War Office, both demanding some unspecified information. Will has no idea what’s going on and is grateful when smooth talking Kim offers to help. They get along rather nicely, setting off some steam in the bookstacks. But Kim isn’t who he seems, Will gets betrayed, and there’s that pesky mystery to solve.
The book is a pulpy romance with lots of double-crossing, knife fights, and high stakes shenanigans. Plus, books.
The Sentence, Louise Erdrich
After Tookie serves her sentence for a ridiculous crime that she commits, she pulls her life together by gaining employment in a local Minneapolis bookstore. The book is partly about Tookie’s life, her relationship with her partner, and her job as a bookseller to quirky customers.
But a reductive synopsis doesn’t really do this book justice, because The Sentence is so much more complicated than “bookseller sells books to quirky customers”. There’s a lot in the book about how bookstores (and booksellers) fared during the worse of COVID, how the Black Lives Matter movement exploded all over Minneapolis and how, as a Native American, Tookie navigates her culture– and the cultural appropriation that chips away at it.
Also, Tookie is being haunted by a dead bookstore customer.
Also, the love of language and literature is soaked into every page.
How to Find Love in a Bookshop, Veronica Henry
Emilia runs Nightingale Books in a small town in the Cotswolds. She promised her dad that she’d keep the shop going, but she’s grieving from his death and struggling to make it go. The shop has a lot of great customers, each with their own issues. Such as: the divorced father who made a mess of his marriage, the stressed out lady of the manor, the shy cook and others.
This book is a cozy read with lots of charm and feel goods.
The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain
(translated by Emily Aitken and Emily Boyce)
The story opens with a late-night mugging which lands the victim, Laure Valadier, in the hospital. Bookstore owner Laurent Letellier comes across her abandoned handbag on his routine coffee run. He looks through the contents hoping to find a clue as to its owner, finding only the usual purse detritus and a red notebook, which includes Laure’s private musings. Laurent decides to go on a quest to find the owner of the bag.
The book has lots of great Parisian settings, including Laurent’s store. And there is a lovely “will they, won’t they” element to Laurent’s quest. The story is light, but literary.
And if you like Parisian settings, we have a whole list of books set in Paris to keep you reading.
The Bookshop on the Corner (#1 Scottish Bookshop series), Jenny Colgan
Like Monsieur Perdu (noted above in The Little Paris Bookshop), Nina is a “literary matchmaker”. When she loses the comfort and security of her library job, she decided to go for it by outfitting an old van as a bookmobile.
She drives the countryside selling books at fairs and festivals, but her journey is fraught with setbacks and adjustments. But above all, she’s spreading the love of books and reading with the folks who she encounters.
There’s some romance in the book (both book love and love between humans), along with themes like following your dreams and having the courage to persist.
If you like Scottish settings, we have a whole list of books set in Scotland for you to dive into.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman
Bookseller Nina loves nothing more than working in the bookstore, going to trivia night, hanging out with her cat, and of course reading. She had an unconventional upbringing with a globetrotting mom who often left her in the care of others. She never knew her father, and is surprised when she’s contacted by his estate after his death. There’s money in that estate…and also a lot of quibbling siblings, cousins and family hangers-on.
The whole surprise family thing is discombobulating enough, but she’s also developing feelings for her trivia night nemesis Tom. All of this is upending her carefully managed life.
The book is full of fun characters and Nina’s sharp observances make her journey a worthwhile ride.
The Secret Book and Scone Society (#1 of Secret, Book and Scone Society), Ellery Adams
Miracle Springs, North Carolina has hot springs and is known as a place of healing. Bookseller Nora does her part by playing the role of “bibliotherapist”, finding books for customers that will help them in some way. After a man who had reached out to her is found dead, Nora decides to try to get to the bottom of what happened.
In doing so, she creates the Secret Book and Scone Society- a group of women who support one another, create community and share their innermost secrets. The society dives into investigating the death and they uncover quite a few town secrets.
This book series is great for readers who love a cozy mystery.
The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, Charlie Lovett
This bookseller is also from North Carolina. After Peter’s wife Amanda dies, he decides work on his grief and rekindle his love of rare books by visiting Hay-on-Wye, a book town in Wales. As he browses the town, and a volume of Shakespeare, he’s shocked to find a picture that looks just like Amanda fluttering from the pages.
Part of the book explores Peter’s relationship with his late wife. And the other storyline follows Peter as he attempts to track down the story behind the Victorian image that looks so much her. As he delves back in time to Shakespeare’s era, Peter begins to explore the question of whether the Bard actually wrote the works attributed to him.
Reading this book you get some history, mystery and a fascinating look into antiquarian books.
Twenty One Truths About Love, Matthew Dicks
Things to know about this book:
- Dan owns a bookstore, but it’s not going well and his finances are looking grim.
- He loves his pregnant wife, but is not being honest with her about the situation.
- He cooks up some ridiculous plan(s) to save things.
- He is an obsessive list maker and he chronicles all of his life foibles in list form.
- Dan is flawed, anxious, lovable and totally relatable.
The Cracked Spine (#1 Scottish Bookshop Mystery), Paige Shelton
Delaney Nichols answers an unusual help wanted ad and soon finds herself leaving Kansas for a job at the Cracked Spine bookshop in Edinburgh. She soon settles in and befriends a cast of characters including an aspiring actor with a troubled past, eccentric Rosie, who takes her little dog everywhere, Elias the taxi driver, and hunky bartender Tom.
Delaney also soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery surrounding a murder and a recently discovered Shakespeare first folio. And off she goes on an adventure which continues with the other seven books in the series.
The Stationary Shop, Marjan Kamali
This whole “books about bookshops” genre tends to be very Euro-centric. So it was refreshing to come across a book on the topic that’s primarily set in the Middle East.
Roya is an idealistic teenager living in Tehran during the 1950’s, which was a very politically volatile time in Iran. She loves hanging out in Mr. Fakhri’s stationary/book shop. Ever the matchmaker, Fakri sets Roya up with Bahman, a politically engaged young man who also loves Rumi’s poetry. They fall in love and are set to marry, but Bahman never shows up.
The story follows each of them as they carry on with their lives. This bittersweet story is great for anyone interested in learning more about Iran’s political history.
The Left Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix
Nix is a deft hand at YA fantasy and with this book, he’s set his sights on an alternative version of London in the 1980’s. Here’s the deal; the right handed booksellers are the intellectual ones, and the left handed booksellers are the one who fight evil magic.
Susan accidentally finds herself at the center of the action when she runs across some of that evil magic while trying to track down her long lost father. She meets Merlin (left handed bookseller) and his sister Vivian (right handed bookseller), and together they find themselves knee deep in a mystery involving criminal gangs, black fog, betrayals, and power struggles.
It’s a fun romp.
More Book Lists
- Explore some speculative fiction with these Climate fiction (cli-fi) books.
- 12 tentactular books about octopuses (both read and imagined), and also these which are about elephants.
- Books for inspiring a good long walk.
- And frosty books set in the winter.
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