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On the Big Screen: Libraries and Bookstores in the Movies

I am a library and bookstore lover, and some of my all-time favorite movies are set in them.  I mentioned You’ve Got Mail in my previous blog on books in the movies, and though it certainly fits this category, I won’t mention it now. Here are my top 5 movies featuring libraries and/or bookstores:

Number 1:  Desk Set (1957) starring Katharine Hepburn (Bunnie Watson) and Spencer Tracy (Richard Sumner).  First of all, you can’t go wrong with a movie starring this iconic couple.  Bunnie is in charge of the reference library at the fictional Federal Broadcasting Network.  Richard is a methods engineer and inventor of EMERAC (Electomagnetic Memory and Research Arithmetical Calculator – in short, a computer).  He is hired by the network to install the computer in the research department, which causes quite a shakeup.  Bunnie matches wits with Richard and EMERAC in this very funny, romantic comedy.  Although filmed in a studio, the Federal Broadcasting Network is supposed to be located at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

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Number 2: Foul Play (1978) starring Goldie Hawn (Gloria Mundy) and Chevy Chase (Tony Carlson).  This is a romantic comedy thriller, and an homage to Alfred Hitchcock movies.  Gloria is a librarian who gets caught up in the middle of a plot to assassinate the Pope.  Tony is a police detective assigned to the case.  Only a few scenes are set in the library, which were actually filmed at the Pasadena Central Library in Pasadena, California.  The rest of the movie scenes are set in several locations throughout the San Francisco area.  (So you there will be the obligatory car chase up and down those famous hills.)  If nothing else, Dudley Moore (Stanley Tibbits) will have you laughing out loud.

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Number 3:  Funny Face (1957) starring Audrey Hepburn (Jo Stockton) and Fred Astaire (Dick Avery).  Funny Face is known more for its musical numbers, fashion sense, and scenes set in Paris than it is for books.  However, the main characters meet when Dick, a fashion photographer, ends up at a shoot in a Greenwich Village bookshop where Jo works.  Jo is outraged by the intrusion of the destructive magazine crew, but Dick is charmed by Jo.  He eventually convinces her to take a modeling gig in Paris, where she would be able to indulge her philosophical pursuits.  “Bonjour, Paris!”  Alas, the bookshop was filmed on a soundstage, but many of the outdoor scenes in Paris are real.

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Number 4:  National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2009) starring Nicolas Cage (Benjamin “Ben” Franklin Gates) and Diane Kruger (Dr. Abigail Chase).  This action/adventure film is right up my history loving alley.  I could have included this in my previous top 5 list because of (1) the story line linking Ben’s ancestor, Thomas, to the diary of John Wilkes Booth; and (2) Ben’s quest for the “President’s Secret Book”.  So why did I include this film in this list?  Because of the scenes that take place at the Library of Congress.  This library lover would love to do some research there in real life!  In addition, the first National Treasure movie also had a scene filmed in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

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Number 5:  Beauty and the Beast (1991 animation and 2017 film).  I’m sure I don’t have to explain the plot of these movies to you.  But can I just mention – the Beast’s library?  Forget about being a princess, just let me in the library!

Honorable mention:  Bell, Book and Candle (1958) starring James Stewart (Shephard “Shep” Henderson) and Kim Novak (Gillian Holroyd).  Gillian, an owner of an African art store, casts a love spell on her upstairs neighbor, Shep.  Although this fantasy, comedy, romance film does not have scenes at a library or at a bookstore, it does have scenes in Shep’s office.  So why did I include this mention?  Shep is a book publisher and has my dream office with a fantastic wall of books, complete with library ladder.  Maybe he had the same interior designer as the Beast!

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Literary destination: London, England

My favorite thrift shop has a large book section I love to browse because I never know what marvels I might stumble across there.  On one recent visit, I found this book by Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004, ISBN 9780792265610.)  I love reading.  I love London.  I love reading books set in London.  Brilliant find!  Some of the authors that inspired Quindlen’s London adventures discussed in this book are, Virginia Woolf, Margery Allingham, Nancy Mitford, John Mortimer, and of course, Charles Dickens.  If you’d like to find out more about Anna Guindlen and her books, please click here:  Anna Quindlen

We took a family trip to London in 2012 and one of the spots we visited in common with Quindlen was Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.  Over 100 English authors/poets are buried or honored here, including Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare.  The first poet buried in Westminster Abbey was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400!  When you visit here, you’ll notice the vaulted ceiling soaring above you, and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful archways, stained glass windows, and statues.  What an amazing way to pay tribute to your national treasures of literature.  Out of all the photos we took while we were there, I can’t find any from Poet’s Corner! If you’d like more information, and to see official photos of Poet’s Corner, please click here:  Poets’ Corner | Westminster Abbey (westminster-abbey.org).

While we were in London, I was hoping to see the “home” of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, an address that did not actually exist when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Holmes stories.  Now, that address belongs to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  We were unable to make it there due to several road closures, so I guess I’ll have to plan another trip someday. Would you like to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum on your next trip to London?  Make sure to click here for more information:  Sherlock Holmes Museum – The official home of Sherlock Holmes (sherlock-holmes.co.uk).  Want to know more about the man behind it all?  You can find information about Doyle here:  Arthur Conan Doyle – Licensing – Official Website of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Family Estate (conandoyleestate.com)

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My copy of the complete Holmes stories

If you’re planning on going to Baker Street when you visit London, and you’ll be traveling with children, you may want to visit Paddington Station while you’re in the general area.  Why?  Do you remember Paddington Bear?  In the 1950s, Michael Bond bought a stuffed bear for his wife, which they named Paddington since they lived near Paddington Station.  Bond began to write stories about this bear, and in 1958 A Bear Called Paddington was published.  A statue of the bear was commissioned by Bond and was unveiled in its new home in Paddington Station in February 2000.  If you’d like to find out more about Bond and his famous bear, click here:  Paddington

The first Paddington Bear book

If you’re continuing on your adventure with your children (or even without), south of Paddington Station is Kensington Garden.  While you’re strolling in the park and taking in the lovely views, you may come across the statue of Peter Pan, made famous by author JM Barrie.  Peter first made his appearance in the 1902 adult novel, The Little White Bird or Adventures in Kensington Garden.  Peter then made his way to Neverland in the 1904 play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.  The statue has had its home in the Garden since 1912.  If you’d like more information on Kensington Garden, please click here: The Peter Pan Statue – Kensington Gardens – The Royal Parks.  For more information on JM Barrie, you can click here: The Largest Archive & Database of Scottish writerJ M Barrie

Photo credit: Royalparks.org.uk

There is another stop I should mention.  Book lovers young and old would enjoy a visit to the British Library.  Not only does this magnificent structure maintain holdings of global historic and cultural significance, but it also contains a library of over 300,000 volumes.  That’s a lot of books!!  What’s even better?  You don’t have to wait until the end of the pandemic to visit – you can visit virtually!  Please click here for more information:  How to explore the British Museum from home – The British Museum Blog. And while you’re in the area, continue on to the British Library. You’ll find originals of the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in their holdings. To find out more about the British Library’s online exhibits and more, please click here: Online exhibitions – The British Library (bl.uk)

I hope you’ll find some points of interest here and will begin planning your own literary journey to London.

(Photo credit for picture of map in title box : London AZ Street Atlas)

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Books on Books: Thoughts on Book Collecting

I started out my reading life as a serious bookworm in pigtails, who spent a lot of time at her public library.  Over the past many years, this bookworm has turned into a serious bibliophile. Is it enough for me to read and collect books? No!  I also read and collect books about books.  Exhibit A – some of the non-fiction books from my collection to prove my point.  In a previous blog, I wrote about my book buying philosophy.  My recent reading of Rare Books Uncovered by Rebecca Rego Barry (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0-7603-6157-3)) has inspired me to share my thoughts and books on book collecting.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

I will admit to purchasing one of those books pictured above by accident.  I bought ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-884718-41-0), when I really meant to buy ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter.  Please don’t judge me – mistakes happen!  Although I still have not purchased Carter’s book, all is not lost regarding Greenfield’s book.  I find book binding fascinating even though I won’t be putting any knowledge from this book into practice.  This fascination has spilled over into my fiction reading.  Kate Carlisle writes the Bibliophile Mystery series, which is a favorite of mine.  In this series, Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder and restorer, who always finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery.  In each book, Brooklyn describes to us a book she is restoring – it’s like a mini course on bookbinding!  In June 2020, book #14 in the series, The Grim Reader, was released.  For more information on Carlisle’s books, click here:  https://katecarlisle.com/

As you can see from the picture above, I not only enjoy my book collection, I also like to see other people’s collections and how they arrange and display their books.  I guess I like to look at books as well as to read them!  If you walk into my home, you cannot avoid seeing my library as it is the first room in the front of the house.  I try to be mindful about not getting too cluttered with my stacks of books on the shelves, tables, and book carts.  Do I have any thoughts on style?  In general, I say do what you like and what works for you.  Several years ago, someone told me I had too many books on my shelves.  GASP!!  She said I needed to arrange them more artistically…maybe get rid of some of the books on the shelves and add some artwork to break up the look. Clearly, she did not understand that my bookshelves are not for decorating – they are for books!  (I will admit to placing a few book inspired gifts in front of my books, but not in place of them.)

For the most part, my collection is a reading library, therefore nothing fancy.  I have an archival spirit though, so I purchased Care of Fine Books by Jane Greenfield (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-1-60239-078-2) in order to learn how to keep my collection in good condition.  I even have books relating to the public library as I work in one.  I so loved my public library when I was younger that I now own a section of the card catalog removed from it when they transitioned to an online catalog system. 

To round out my collection of books on books, I also have books about book collecting.  If you’re interested in starting out as a book collector, I recommend Modern Book Collecting: A Basic Guide to All Aspects of Book Collecting: What to Collect, Who to Buy from, Auctions, Bibliographies, Care, Fakes, Investments, Donations, Definitions, and More by Robert A. Wilson (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1629147918).  Another good book to read (that I’ve read but do not have in my own collection) if you’re starting out as a book collector is Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books by Ian C. Ellis (New York: Penguin Random House, 2006, ISBN 9780399532382). This book is a little older and as far as I know the 3rd edition is the latest.  I’m hoping that Ellis will come out with a 4th edition soon as an update. 

Anyone interested in books about books should definitely check out those by Nicholas Basbanes, who is the book master in my humble opinion.  Basbanes is a seasoned journalist, critic, and author.  Two of my favorite books written by Basbanes (pictured just above) are:  A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995, ISBN 0-8050-3653-9) and Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2002, ISBN 0-8050-5159-7).  One of the subjects in A Gentle Madness is Stephen Blumberg, who had such a strong desire to collect books that he stole over 23,000 books from libraries in the United States and Canada.  Many of the institutions from which he stole books didn’t even know the books were missing until there was a federal case brought against him!  For more information about Basbanes and his books, click here: https://www.nicholasbasbanes.com/