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Sixpence House: Lost in A Town Of Books

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3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,956 Ratings  ·  297 Reviews
A bibliophile's pilgrimage to where book lovers go when they die-Hay-on-Wye.
Paul Collins and his family abandoned the hills of San Francisco to move to the Welsh countryside-to move, in fact, to the little cobblestone village of Hay-on-Wye, the 'Town of Books' that boasts fifteen hundress inhabitants-and forty bookstores. Antiquarian bookstores, no less.
Hay's newest citi
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Kindle Edition, Reprint, 257 pages
Published December 15th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Zoe
Dec 10, 2007 Zoe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
Why do I read these books? It is like a sickness.

Paul Collins says: Are me & my wife the only Americans who don't own or drive cars? (YES PAUL YOU ARE JUST THAT SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT. ALSO YOU ARE THE ONLY AMERICAN NAMED "PAUL." TRUE FACT.) Paul Collins says: 890 square feet would "barely accommodate" a 1-bedroom apt. in the USA. Paul Collins says American grocery stores are never ever ever out of anything ever. Paul Collins says EVERY AMERICAN HAS DIAMONDS FOR TEETH AND BATHES IN PEARLS DI
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Peggy
Aug 14, 2007 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Booklovers
Sixpence House is ostensibly Collins’ story of attempting to move his family from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye, a small Welsh village with 1,500 inhabitants and 40 bookstores. Hay-on-Wye is an interesting place, and in the right hands, that story could be enough. Luckily for us, Paul Collins is an inveterate reader and collector of obscure tidbits. The story of the move and his time in Wales thus becomes a framework from which to hang some of the most fascinating asides it has ever been my pleasu ...more
Trisha
Aug 16, 2008 Trisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book for people who love to read and if they also are enchanted with Wales and wish they could live there, it's even better. Paul Collins is a writer who evidently has been doing quite well because he was able to afford to move with his wife and young son from California to the little Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, known as the town of books. It's true. I was there about 15 years ago and it was like dying and going to heaven. There were dozens of used book stores - most of them housed in ...more
Megan
Dec 08, 2012 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The shortest version I can possibly give you is that Sixpence House is the latest -- and last -- bust in the long line of books I read because Nancy Pearl recommended them with great enthusiasm. I reject her as a competent adviser on what to read next, and vow never again to pick up any book just on her say-so. I have spent the last two years dutifully listing books to read based on her wildly popular Book Lust series, but no more. It is time to realize that when, out of the 150 or so books I've ...more
Book Concierge
Paul Collins moved his wife and baby from San Francisco to the small Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye. He wanted to give his son the chance to grow up as he had – in the country, free to roam the hills, exploring as any boy would love to do. But Hay-on-Wye is not just a small Welsh village. It is “The Town of Books” – with only 1500 residents and forty bookshops (almost all of them specializing in used / antiquarian books). This is a memoir of their family adventure.

Collins was born in America, of Briti
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M. D.  Hudson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
jennifer
Jun 12, 2011 jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Collins moves his family from San Francisco to the book town of Hay-On-Wye, Wales. The young couple plan on buying a house and raising their son there as Paul awaits his first book to be published. In the meantime, he works for "The King of Hay" in one of the towns many bookstores, meets the Hay Festival organizer and many of the locals and attempts to find a house that won't fall down on them.

This is my second read of Sixpence House and I love Collins' writing and also his perspective, as an Am
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Phair
This started out really good with a breezy style and cool chapter headings in the style of old novels. Much ruminating on the state of reading, books, literacy and popular culture with more interesting quotes than I cared to write down in my journal. I particularly recall the author's discussion with a realtor who told him that too many visible books in a house actually decreases its sales appeal!! Not in my eyes, that's for sure.

Unfortunately the book became something of a let-down with too m
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Katherine
What a delightful book! Though if you asked me what it's about I'd stumble around looking for the right words because it's a little hard to pigeon-hole. Not only is it a book about books, beloved and forgotten, it's also a peek into a unique location (Hay-on-Wye, where books go to die), a book about writing, an adventure of contrasts between what's American and what's British, as well as a completely engaging memoir. Fascinating, thought-provoking, and often laugh out-loud funny, I loved every m ...more
Colleen
Dec 21, 2007 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very pleasant, comfortable read. Like a conversation with a really nice, interesting dinner guest. Old books, old houses, Wales, and lots of quotes from obscure literary works.
Helle
For an Anglophile and bibliophile (i.e. me, being both), this book was pure brain candy. As I wrote earlier in an update, it is a book I felt like disappearing into, and of course it made me desperately want to visit Hay-on-Wye, the little town on the Welsh border where the book is set, and which has some 40 bookshops, out of a population of 1500. How quaint, how anachronistic, how wonderful.

The book doesn’t have much action, which I had no problem with, but is basically about how the author and
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Ms.pegasus
Jul 29, 2013 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bibliophiles
The subtitle of this book is “Lost in a town of books.” “Lost” is an interesting choice of words. Collins might have said “immersed,” but then, where would that sense of adventure, of curiosity and discovery be? From his own antiquarian interests, he is able to draw us into speculations about time, human connection, history, and above all, serendipity. And all of this is imparted with a very personal sense of intimacy. Collins talks about his childhood literary romances (Rockets, Missiles and Sp ...more
Karen
Jan 09, 2016 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Had to force myself to finish. Was really no point to this book. Found the writer to be egotistical & self absorbed in his own intellect & self professed quirkiness
Katerina
Jan 27, 2015 Katerina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is that of an overeducated white male who has a genuine interest in oddball historical accounts and literary outliers. I appreciate the intelligent, witty writing and the author's commentary on living abroad. He throws in many completely random little tidbits of history and literature, many of which are splendid. Some of which fall a little flat. Upon viewing his photo, I have determined that Collins is someone I would have mocked in high school for being pretentious. As adults we ca ...more
Lynn G.
While this was a charming, light, and witty book, I thought there was a touch of arrogance or condescension in its tone; rather a 'ha-ha, look at the odd things that the Brits do/have/say/embrace'. Perhaps I was reading it too critically and wondering how my friends from the UK would respond to the story.

The book is primarily about Hay-on-Wye, Wales, a town whose businesses are almost entirely devoted to the acquisition and selling of used books; some centuries old, and many, many of which are v
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Elly Sands
Apr 30, 2014 Elly Sands rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can you imagine living in a small town of 1500 people and having 40 bookstores at your disposal? Wow! This is the Welsh town of Hay on Wye (Wye is the nearby river) where the author and his wife and child resided for a time. His writing really captures the heart and soul of the town, it's people, architecture, food, weather and most of all the unbelievable number of bookstores and the character of each one. I Googled images of the town and saw the buildings and some of the shops he writes about. ...more
Leah
Jun 16, 2010 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I remember starting this book when I first bought it, but I never finished it. I don't know why. I remember liking it. Maybe I was reading too many other books at the time. Anyhow, I decided to pick it up again and this time finished it within a few days. I loved every minute of it.

I'm a tad familiar with Paul Collins because of his "Collins Library" series put out by McSweeney's. The series consists of forgotten, out-of-print literature that Collins has discovered. The books are all entertaini
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Arminzerella
Paul Collins came to the town of Hay on Wye to find a home and left without one, which was rather disappointing for Anglophile readers who were hoping it would work out. His stories of his time there, however, are quite entertaining.

"Yost rightly sensed that many people are partial to the notion that, like St. Louis housewives with a Ouija board, all writers are somehow mere vessels for Truth and Beauty when they compose. That we are not really in control. This is a variation on that twee littl
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Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 Bonnie Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gem. For one thing, the author and his wife don't own a car...one (I forget which) doesn't even have a driver's license. That makes them heroes for me to start. And the author has such a lovely way of inserting obscure tidbits about odd books he has come across in his life (which is why this is shelved in Lit Crit). He also manages to get in a bit about the publishing process as his first book is just about to go to press as he is writing this one. [return][return]And of course, t ...more
Marigold
Loved this book, loads of fun! Collins & his wife & baby leave San Francisco & head to the Welsh countryside, to live in the village of Hay-on-Wye. I've been to Hay-on-Wye & it really is a town with more books than people! Too cool. The book covers the family's search for a house to buy, along with Collins' adventures as a writer & helper in a bookstore owned by the town's resident wealthy eccentric. Collins writes about weird old books he's read & a lot about differences ...more
Kristīne
Aug 08, 2015 Kristīne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brīnišķīgs brīvā laika lasāmais! Apēdu divās dienās un priecātos par papildporciju, ja tāda būtu.
Amerikāņu rakstnieku pāris izdomā pagriezt dzīvi pa 180 grādiem, un pārcelties uz leģendām apvīto, katra sevi cienoša grāmattārpa svētceļojumu galamērķi - burvīgo grāmatu pilsēteli Velsā - Hay-on-Wye.
Stāsts par pašu pilsētu, tās iemītniekiem, par dzīvi ar grāmatām, par britu vs amerikāņu īpatnībām, bet visam pāri - par grāmatām. Autoram ir ļoti īpatnēja lasītāja gaume - sākot ar 19.gs zinātniskajiem
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Jeannen
Feb 25, 2008 Jeannen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lives
I’ve had a couple of unsatisfactory reads lately , although they were at least unsatisfactory for different reasons. Sixpence House I have been looking at since it came out in hardcover, but it didn’t make the purchase list until available in paperback on a day when I was in the mood for retail therapy. I should have paid attention to the instinct that stopped me from buying it in the first place. It’s the story of the short period when the author and his family moved to a town in Britain that i ...more
Rhonnie
Jun 18, 2013 Rhonnie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I really thought this was a novel when I picked it up, because of the title and cover. I liked a couple things about this book. Some of the book trivia was interesting, learning about Hay in Wales was nice, and he is a good writer. It is the kind of book that definitely takes you someplace else very charming, and so reading it has a good feeling. But it's also one of the most pretentious books I've read. He has an attitude of -- because I read books I'm so much better, because I read THESE books ...more
Edel
Dec 02, 2012 Edel rated it it was amazing
This is the book for anyone who wishes to visit Hay-On-Wye, the town of books or daydreams about it like I do. I was there three years ago this week and I was so pleased when I found this book this week. Paul left San Francisco with his family for this sleepy little town in the Black Mountains in Wales on the border of Hereford and Hereford-shire. It was lovely going back there through Paul's eyes hearing about the streets he walked down that I walked down myself( I too was in that Chinese..for ...more
Afton Nelson
Apr 04, 2011 Afton Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A feast for book lovers! What better setting that Hay-on-Wye, Wales, the town of books, with 1,500 residents and 40 bookstores for a story about books and the people who love them. Loved the details about used books and author Paul Collins certainly knows his stuff. I had to admire his taste in literature: the old, the obscure, the obsolete. Wonderful! The text is riddled with quotes from some of Collins' favorites, most of which had me laughing out loud. A fun read which left me feeling a bit m ...more
WordPerv
This is the story of the author's attempt to move his family to a small town in England that truly is a town built on books. Nearly everyone in town is an (eccentric) bookseller and what better place for an author to live?

This memoir is told in an unusual way in that the author constantly weaves in tales and quotes from other (obscure) books. It's obvious the author is an expert in otherwise unknown books but it doesn't come off as bragging, rather it weaves interestingly back to the story, even
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Elizabeth A
I imagine that most book people would love to move to Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town with 1500 inhabitants and 40 book stores. While most of us might think about it, the author does just that. This memoir is a meditation on moving and the meaning of home, and on reading and the meaning of books. The book starts out strong and is often hilarious, but it seems to lose steam along the way. Still it is an enjoyable read if your idea of heaven is living in a quirky town with so many indie book stores.
Jill Bowman
Sep 08, 2015 Jill Bowman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read this book when it came out in '03 and have known of Hay-On-Wye since then, but have never been to that part of Wales.
Next week I'll make a short visit to that town of books. I decided to reread Sixpence House and I'm glad I did. First - because it was a good book! I'd liked it a decade ago and I like it now. Collins has worked so many interesting details of life into this book. Some I have used over the years without knowing where I'd gotten them from. Of course he addresses this in
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Carla
Aug 23, 2015 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I mentioned to my book-collecting-English-professor-son that I had been in Cortona, Italy, the city made famous by the book and the movie, Under The Tuscan Sun, he immediately recommended Sixpence House. He and his wife had visited Hay-On-Wye, England, the village about which this book is written, a very small town whose claim to fame is bookstores. In that tiny burg are more than 40 stores, all selling books of various kinds. A bookseller in New York who learned of their visit suggested th ...more
Kimberly Westrope
Jan 03, 2015 Kimberly Westrope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love reading books about books, and this little gem does not disappoint. Collins is an engaging author whose love of books, at the very least, matches my own. As he described sorting through towering piles of dusty old books, I felt myself nestled in the corner next to him, searching for my own treasures. Full of envy, I yearned for this to be true.

I found myself jotting down notes for many of the books he references here, hoping I might one day have the chance to read some of them myself. Mr.
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Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His nine books have been translated into eleven languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011).

A frequent contributor to the "Histories" column of New Scientist magazine,
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“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 not care for such things, this lettering tells them: Hello. I am crap. 9 likes
“Many people are partial to the notion that . . . all writers are somehow mere vessels for Truth and Beauty when they compose. That we are not really in control. This is a variation on that twee little fable that writers like to pass off on gullible readers, that a character can develop a will of his own and 'take over a book.' This makes writing sound supernatural and mysterious, like possession by faeries. The reality tends to involve a spare room, a pirated copy of MS Word, and a table bought on sale at Target. A character can no more take over your novel than an eggplant and a jar of cumin can take over your kitchen.” 6 likes
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