*Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins (1993)

sixpence_houseBook Review: This is a memoir by a writer who leaves San Francisco for the countryside of Wales, a town called Hay-on-Wye, where there are 1500 residents and 40 bookstores.  Not a lot happens in the book; it’s more of a collection of observations.  The author and his wife and toddler son move into an apartment, they look for a house to buy, he writes, he contemplates the title of his upcoming book, and he works in a bookstore overhauling the American literature section.  But through all of this, he’s very funny as he comments on the residents of Wey, quirky bookstore owners, British real estate (and the way it’s sold), British game shows, British pubs, and of course, books.  One of the funniest sections is his description of book covers, which he muses about because he has no cover for his about-to-be published book.  He writes: If a book cover has raised lettering, metallic lettering, or raised metallic lettering, then it is telling the reader: Hello I am an easy-to read work on espionage, romance, a celebrity, and/or murder. To readers who do no care for such things, this lettering tells them: Hello, I am crap.  Such books can only use glossy paper for the jacket; Serious Books can use glossy finish as well, but it is only Serious Books that are allowed to use matte finish.  He goes on to discuss book size, color and author head shot position and how these also play into the educated versus uneducated reader. He ends this section with the following: Woe and alas to any who transgress these laws.  A number of reviewers railed against The Bridges of Madison County because is used the diminutive hardcover size and muted color scheme of, say, an Annie Dillard book–thus cruelly tricking readers of Serious Literature into buying crap.  His writing is excellent and his observations are unique and funny.  Take your time with this book and enjoy each description; focus on the writing, not the action.  (memoir)

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