When I told people I was visiting Rome, several people suggested I stop by the Almost Corner Bookstore. It sells English books in a cozy shop with wall-to-wall books. A center table stacks current bestsellers and books with Italy as the subject matter. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, due to the release of the film, received the center spot. An observation from a customer who lives in Rome, “clearly Dan Brown didn’t visit Rome before he wrote the book.” For such a small store, they carried an impressive selection of genres, from English fiction and non-fiction to contemporary Chinese literature. I also noticed several bestsellers in paperback that were still in hardback in the US. [Aside: This always irritates me. I finished the third of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, in paperback over the Christmas holidays because a friend bought it overseas. It won't be out in hardback here until May.]
The atmosphere was fun, when I visited two booksellers were holding court along with a professor from Cal State Los Angeles and an ex-pat who later delivered us to a terrific dinner restaurant. Their customers are tourists to a certain extent (apparently an Australian Cardinal drops in every time he’s in Rome to buy a novel for the plane ride home), but at least a third are English speaking Rome residents. Many Italians who read English books because book options are limited in Italian, the publishing world is smaller. The store’s bestsellers are detective and mystery books, even before the likes of Dan Brown, especially if the locale is Italy. Once Almost Corner buys a book, they keep it until it’s sold. While the store doesn’t sell used books, some of them may be very old.
Rome was the last stop on our trip to Italy and by the time I reached the Almost Corner Bookstore in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, I couldn’t help noticing lots of the small bookstores scattered throughout the country in both large and small cities. Finding a native English speaker and bookseller, I asked about the prevalence of bookstores everywhere. The answer, there isn’t competition. To buy a book is to buy it at the local bookstore. There are bookstore chains, Read the rest of this entry »