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Sixpence House by Paul Collins
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Sixpence House (2004)

by Paul Collins

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,046438,057 (3.63)117
  1. 20
    On Reading by André Kertész (Fliss88)
  2. 20
    84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (Limelite)
    Limelite: Similar evocative memoir that revolves around a bookstore and books. But at a distance.
  3. 10
    Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry (Bjace)
    Bjace: McMurtry's life as a bibliophile. Tries to create a "town of books" in Texas comparable to Hay.
  4. 00
    The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A meditation on books, reading, library-design, modes of cataloging, etc.
  5. 00
    Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer (Fliss88)
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English (42)  Italian (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Paul Collins moved his wife and baby from San Francisco to the small Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye. He wanted to give his son the chance to grow up as he had – in the country, free to roam the hills, exploring as any boy would love to do. But Hay-on-Wye is not just a small Welsh village. It is “The Town of Books” – with only 1500 residents and forty bookshops (almost all of them specializing in used / antiquarian books). This is a memoir of their family adventure.

Collins was born in America, of British parents. He had frequently traveled to England and Wales and was familiar with Hay-on-Wye. Still, living in a place is different from visiting it, and Collins soon finds himself immersed in the world of books in ways he hadn’t anticipated. His memoir includes thumbnail sketches of some of the eccentric inhabitants – including Richard Booth, the self-proclaimed King of Hay, who bought the ancient castle ruins and turned it into the least-organized bookstore imaginable. (Although Collins does cite one of my own local favorites – Renaissance Books in Milwaukee WI – as “the closest thing the United States has to Booth’s.”)

There are passages that would merit 4 stars, but overall the book gets 3 stars from me. I enjoyed it, and some references to obscure, long-forgotten books make me want to hunt those volumes down and read them, but I wasn’t particularly moved by this book.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
In anticipation of the release of his first work, a writer moves with his family to a book town in Wales. The text centers on their efforts to find a suitable house to buy (unsuccessful; apparently authentically ancient homes are both expensive to buy and even more expensive to remodel), and explore the many bookstores that serve as the main economic driver of the town. Being real life, it lacks the neat dramatic bow to tie things all together. After much effort, in the end they decide just to move back to the States, so it is all much ado about nothing. But the telling is delightful, with touches of wry humor. Collins offers interesting insights into the book publishing process -- he discusses the choosing of a book cover, and the remaindering of titles -- but some of these digressions go a tad overlong. ( )
  dono421846 | Dec 31, 2015 |
I did like this. It was more [b:Notes from a Small Island|28|Notes from a Small Island|Bill Bryson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1156042888s/28.jpg|940892] and less [b:Books: A Memoir|2421737|Books A Memoir|Larry McMurtry|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266810254s/2421737.jpg|2428917]. Still I shake my head about him shipping books (including "bad" books because of their interesting titles) back and forth across the Atlantic. I'll never understand hoarding - public libraries and bookcrossing.com are the way to go! However, he writes of history, the British character, his child, the good people of Hay-on-Wye, and more with easy grace and no small wit, as the literary cliches go. I did prefer his way of saying that "The British do..." as opposed to Bryson's more "It's so frustrating the way the British do...." ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I think this book could have just as easily been called Hay , or The Apartment . I guess Sixpence was the last straw though . I learned something, but at times it was certainly train of thought story telling . ( )
  szbrooks1 | Jan 1, 2015 |
Il pregio di Collins è, credo, la leggerezza. Racconta una dose di fatti suoi - come d'altronde fara' poi con il libro sull'autismo di suo figlio - con candore, disincanto e ironica accettazione. Un uomo che umanamente stimo per le scelte, per il coraggio, per la curiosità. Questo libro, nello specifico, fa senz'altro venir voglia di visitare il Galles e parla sufficientemente male degli americani che quasi li rende simpatici. Non c'entra molto, ma la cadenza mi ha ricordato i libri di Chris Stewart - altro bell'esempio di ciuffo d'erba in cerca di prato in cui attecchire. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Entertaining memoir....A treat for the bibliophile.
added by jburlinson | editKirkus (Mar 1, 2003)
 
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I have never noticed the view from the Flatiron Building before.
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Book description
Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town of 1,500, is heaven on earth for people who love books, especially old books. It has 40 bookstores, and if you can't find what you want in one of them, you can fork over 50 pence and visit the field behind the town castle, where thousands more long-forgotten books languish under a sprawling tarp. McSweeney's contributor Collins moved his wife and baby son from San Francisco to Hay a few years ago, intending to settle there. This book is Collins's account of the brief period when he organized American literature in one of the many used-book stores, contemplated and abandoned the idea of becoming a peer in the House of Lords, tried to buy an affordable house that wasn't falling apart (a problem when most of the buildings are at least a century old) and revised his first book (Banvard's Folly). Collins can be quite funny, and he pads his sophomore effort with obscure but amusing trivia (how many book lovers know that the same substance used to thicken fast-food milk shakes is an essential ingredient in paper resizing?), but it's hard to imagine anyone beyond bibliophiles and fellow Hay-lovers finding enough here to hold their attention. Witty and droll though he may be, Collins fails to give his slice-of-life story the magic it needs to transcend the genre.
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"Paul Collins and his family abandoned the hills of San Francisco to move to the Welsh countryside - to move, in fact, to the little cobblestone village of Hay-on-Wye, the "Town of Books, " boasting 1,500 inhabitants...and forty bookstores. Antiquarian bookstores, no less." "Hay's newest residents accordingly take up residence in a sixteenth-century apartment over a bookstore, meeting the village's large population of misfits and bibliomaniacs by working for world class eccentric Richard Booth - the self-declared King of Hay, owner of the local castle, and proprietor of the world's largest and most chaotic used book warren. A useless clerk, Paul delights in shifting dusty stacks of books around and sifting them for ancient gems like Robinson Crusoe in Words of One Syllable, Confession of an Author's Wife, and I Was Hitler's Maid. Meanwhile, as he struggles with the final touches on his own first book, Banvard's Folly, nearing publication in the United States, he also duly fulfills his duty as a British citizen by simultaneously applying to be a peer in the House of Lords and attempting to buy Sixpence House, a beautiful and neglected old tumbledown pub for sale in the town's center." "Sixpence House is an engaging meditation on what books mean to us, and how their meaning can resonate long after they have been abandoned by their public."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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