A travel itinerary for all bibliophiles, bound in hardcover for easy reference.
All kidding aside (if I am kidding), this is a gorgeous book filled with 3-4 page spreads on towns that have dedicated their existence, or tried to, to the joy and importance of the written word in all its forms. Except digital. Because digital is evil (now I'm definitely kidding.)
The bittersweet part of this is the success rate of some of the towns. At least half, by my very loose and statistically inaccurate count, have struggled, or find themselves with far fewer bookshops than they started with. Some of this is the natural atrophy of any business category; there are always those that failed to prepare themselves adequately for the roller coaster that is small business ownership, but the ever shifting market of bookselling and the control of the market by big business, of course, bears the brunt of responsibility.
There are success stories too, and those success stories are significant. Hay-on-Wye (my personal nirvana/paradise/heaven), Wigtown, and embarrassingly enough, Clunes here n Victoria. The one that's only 90 minutes from my doorstep and I haven't been to yet! Boy, is my face red. Anyway - these towns as well as others all over the world are proof that the concept is important and chock full of possibilities.
Johnson does a good job generally, giving a solid overview of each town, featuring the shop names you hope are solvent enough to be around by the time the reader figures out how to get there. He even occasionally mentions (especially for the French towns) the concentration of languages shops focus on. My only complaint is that I'd have liked this thoughtful touch to be more consistent. At least one reader of this book does see it as a bucket list (me), and, while most of the towns in this book would stand on their aesthetic merits, it would be helpful to know whether I'd be unlikely to find much in the way of reading material if I'm to visit.
Definitely a book to put off reading if you're trying to avoid the travel itch.