Book Towns

Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word by Alex Johnson 

Introduced by Joshua Boyd Green of Green Ink Booksellers, Hay-on-Wye


The advent and continued popularity of book towns is a strange and wonderful modern phenomenon. In his beautifully illustrated new book, part paean part travel guide, Alex Johnson describes bibliographic havens in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia and New Zealand and visits book shops in former banks, schools, churches, cinemas, libraries, rectories, houses, hotels, sheds and a castle.

Describing Featherston in New Zealand Johnson says, “The aim of the book town is to improve the local quality of life” and this statement contains the essence of the book town movement. Richard Booth, founder of the original book town in Hay-on-Wye in 1961 and Honorary Life President of the International Organisation of Book Towns had the revolutionary idea that a book town could offer an exemplary model of sustainable rural development and tourism. Now, 57 years later and with around 40 loosely linked book towns existing all over the world, you would have to say he was onto something.

Johnson gives a brief history of how and when each town joined this rural revolution as well as a nice overview of the shops and where to look for more information. There are also splendid photographs of bookshops, book lovers and landscapes if you need to be tempted any further.

So far I have only visited two of these bibliophile’s delights; Hay-on-Wye, where I live, and Clunes on the Victorian goldfields in Australia. These towns are on opposite sides of the world, in spectacularly different terrain and have utterly separate histories and yet they are now linked ideologically and inevitably by their ethos and by their dedication to the printed word. The book town movement is a truly global local one.

This year I intend to visit Wigtown in Scotland, Sedbergh in England and Sidney in Canada and when I do I will certainly be carrying a copy of this wonderful book.

Long live the Book Town!

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Joshua Boyd Green is a bookseller, and he is opening a shiny new shop in Hay-on-Wye next month.

Green Ink Booksellers


Joshua Green at the Wayzgoose at The Story of Books in Hay-on-Wye


Order a copy of Book Towns by Alex Johnson from The Story of Books for £12 inc. postage and packing and a free letterpress printed card (usually £4). Email to place an order.


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