Immersing yourself in a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so for those who find travel to new and different places equally pleasurable – traveling to a designated Book Town is comparable to the cherry on top of a hot fudge sundae.
Building a Book Town
The idea of Book Towns began in the little berg of Hay-on-Wye Wales in the literary mind of Sir Richard Booth. I like Sir Richard for two reasons – first the whole book thing – but also because Hay-on-Wye is a small town in an agriculture region of Wales and he wanted to do something to enhance the community and provide jobs for those not engaged in agriculture. Yep, that speaks to the farmer’s daughter in me.
So he bought an empty building and started filling it with second hand books. Today, the town of about 1,500 people has upwards of 50 bookstores and untold millions of books for sale.
Book Towns Around the World
To be a designated Book Town, yours must be a small rural town or village in which second-hand and antiquarian bookshops are concentrated. Most Book Towns have developed in villages of historic interest or of scenic beauty.
Stillwater Minnesota was the first book town in the US with five massive bookstores.
Another is tiny Brownville, Nebraska, population 50. But the little cafe and craft shops all have huge numbers of books, including an old school house with an estimated one million books.
That means people will travel hundreds of miles to visit these little towns and to browse in book shops. Then of course, they need a place to eat and sleep and they often buy other souvenirs of their journeys and they go home and tell their friends.
And then, they will curl up with one of their Book Town purchases and let the pages take them on a journey that can only be taken in a book.