This charming documentary about used and rare bookshops in New York is like a browse through dusty shelves, capturing all the pleasure of a long afternoon whiling away one’s time amid yellowing pages and promising spines.
Director DW Young has found some great New York characters here and unearthed some great memories from book lovers (Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean), recalling the heydays of the 50s when the city boasted nearly 400 bookshops, including a whole street dubbed Book Row on 4th Avenue.
He’s also captured some wonderful old rooms crammed floor-to-ceiling with tomes and delves into the significance of archives and libraries, with a particularly illuminating look at Harlem’s Schomburg Centre for Black Culture, with its curator Kevin Young.
To celebrate the release of the film, I’ve listed my own:
Top Five Movies about Bookshops:
84 Charing Cross Road – starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, an epistolary romance about literature, equally romantic about New York and London and the power of books.
You’ve Got Mail – a rom com story of the little children’s bookshop fighting off the book megastore, with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks under the direction of Nora Ephron, adapting The Shop Around The Corner.
Ex Libris – from the superlative documentarian Fred Wiseman, the inner workings of the vast sprawl of the New York Public Library observed and illustrated, showing how books remain part of the city’s lifeblood and history.
Before Sunset – starting in famed Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, Ethan Hawke rekindles his romance with Julie Delpy’s Celine and may have to come up with a new ending for his best-seller…
Hannah And Her Sisters – Woody Allen’s irresistible film features a beautiful sequence in which obsessed Michael Caine, in a fur-trimmed overcoat, pretends to bump into Barbara Hershey. She takes him to a Soho bookstore where they spend time browsing and he buys her a volume of poems by e e cummings. “Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands…”