84, Charing Cross Road
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84, Charing Cross Road

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  16,166 ratings  ·  2,146 reviews
It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.
Paperback, 97 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1970)
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Steve Sckenda
Helene Hanff is poor script writer in New York City with a taste for antiquarian books, which she purchases from Marx & Co. , a London bookseller located at 84 Charing Cross Road. “Why should I run all the way to 17th Street to buy dirty, badly made books when I could buy clean, beautiful ones without leaving the typewriter?” 84, Charing Cross Road is Helene’s memoir that unfolds through transatlantic letters, dated from 1949 to 1969, between Helene and store employees, who become her frien...more
Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
"If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much."

This was my second reading of the book, and I'm adding a star to my original rating. I laughed a lot harder this time, and even got a little choked up near the end. I don't recall this much chortling, cackling, guffawing and snorting on my first time through. The contrast between Helene Hanff's brash American informality and Frank Doel's staid British professionalism is delightful. There's a certain charm in his p...more
Trevor
I love this book and love the film they made of it too. It is sloppy and sweet and warm and, you know, just right. It is the sort of book one could read in an hour or two over a pot of tea on a cold winter's afternoon and just enjoy. Pure delight.

If you needed to be reminded that love of literature is as good a foundation of love of the world as any other 'religion', that the people we write to can be closer and dearer to us than those we see day after day - then this really is a book written to...more
Madeleine
In the interest of full disclosure (or because putting myself on display via book reviews is a more palatable vehicle for my innermost self these days than, say, the more self-respectingly private venue of a journal is), I originally wrote this review as a series of letters between 84, Charing Cross Road and me, but it was one of those times when emulating the format just wasn't working (for one thing, I kept writing the book's responses far too snarkily, which I think may have been the result o...more
Lynne King
As soon as I came across this book on Goodreads and read the blurb, I could see that all the literary ingredients I look for in a book were there in this series of letters between two individuals. Consequently I had to purchase it.

Firstly, it was the personality of Helene Hanff, a Jewish writer in New York. I’ll just never tire of Jewish humor as it’s such a never-ending pleasure for me. Some of the “treasures” that pour from people’s mouths. As for New Yorkers, well words fail me in that regar...more
Aldrin
Sep 13, 2011 Aldrin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Aldrin by: Chachic
The present is an undeniably significant time in the realm of books. It’s a time when the nature and limits of books are being redefined so aggressively that to enclose the very term in scare quotes does not necessarily amount to a vagary in punctuation. The mostly static evolution of books is now approaching a flash point, that is, if it hasn’t yet been reached. The signs are as clear as Truman Capote’s favorite Russian vodka. Accompanied by the consistent rise in the sales of books in their va...more
Mark
Oct 22, 2012 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone who can read
Recommended to Mark by: I can't remember but God Bless them
Shelves: epistolary, favorites
Another of those books which take no time to read but are an absolute joy every time you revisit them. The story of a flamboyant, generous, intelligent american woman and her friendship with a seemingly much quieter but equally generous and humourous english bookseller. Their mutual love of literature and all things book is the initial leaping off point but their friendship extends over 20 years and covers momentous changes, in british society certainly. These changes are hinted at gently, refer...more
Cathy DuPont
Apr 08, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Lovers of books
Recommended to Cathy by: Jeff Keeten
"I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to." as stated in a letter from Helene Hanff to Frank Doel.

So said Helene Hanff author of this little book in the form of an epistolary, the writing of letters, from Helene in New York City, to Marks & Co., Booksellers, 84, Charing Cross Road, London. The majority of the letters back to Helene were from Frank...more
Jay
Apr 02, 2007 Jay rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Romatics who don't require romance
The best documentaries are the ones that filmmakers never intentionally set out to make. 84, Charing Cross Road is sort of the literary equivalent to me. Neither of the penpals could have had the foresight to know how deep of a relationship they would forge. Thanks to the prevalence of carbon paper at the time, their timeless correspondence was preserved. I've read this classic four times and it never gets old. It reaffirms my faith that people (strangers) can do great and noble things.
Prashant
I simply loved this book and have many reasons for it.

My love for books is not old but books have kind of grown on me. I started off ordering online but when my monthly budget kept on overshooting every time I had to hunt for places to buy some clean second hand books at reasonable price. So now I visit a place nearby where book vendors set up their shops on the pavement. Now that I have more time to spend loitering, I visit the place twice a week and get 2 things that I love the most, coffee a...more
bookczuk
One of my alltime favorite books. Through the actual letters between a used book store in London and an avid reader in the US, it is possible to get a glimpse of the world in 1949 and after. I always find myself fascinated by the correspondence and daunted by Hanff's reading list. Here's a partial list of the books mentioned in the book. Maybe I should use it as my "I need to read these books" list?

Partial list of the books Helen Hanff ordered from Marks & Co. and mentioned in 84 Charing Cro...more
Anne
I was introduced to this book many years ago as a child. I remember just loving it. It is a collection of letters from the late 50s through the 70s between the author, Helene - a writer in New York, and Frank Dole - an antiquarian bookseller. Helene begins in search of rare titles, which Dole doggedly tracks down for her. As their correspondence continues, an interesting friendship develops. Helene sends packages to the bookstore, to be shared by the other workers there. And eventually, she begi...more
nomad
Every one

who likes to read books,
who likes to write about books,
who likes to talks about books,
who likes to buy 2nd hand books,
who likes the lavish smell of the books,
who likes to sniff the pages before going to buy the book,






MUST read this book.
Ginny
”Sembra troppo nuovo e intatto per essere mai stato letto da qualcuno, pure deve essere così: continua ad aprirsi nei punti più deliziosi, il fantasma del precedente proprietario mi fa notare cose che non avevo mai letto prima.
[...] conserverò il mio fino al giorno della mia morte e morirò felice per la consapevolezza che lo starò lasciando a qualcuno che potrà amarlo. Lo riempirò tutto di leggeri segni a matita per indicare i passaggi migliori a qualche amatore di libri non ancora nato.”


Questo...more
Mike
Hanff's little book of letters to and from the book shop Marks & Co, is a little gem. It illustrates the love of books with a passion that cannot be disguised as much as the author might try with her delightful wit.

The letters span twenty years as Ms. Hanff acquired the library she could not find in American bookshops. Her tastes ran to English literature, most preferably non-fiction. She did not care to read a volume of history by someone who had not lived through the times about which she...more
Kathryn
Sep 09, 2011 Kathryn rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Highly recommended to anyone who love books, letters or England
Recommended to Kathryn by: Jeannette
Helene was disgusted with American books lacking quality and availability, especially for the older books she so craved. When she wrote Marks and Co. in England, hopeful of finding a used book she desperately wanted, she found much more. She found a whole group of people who became her friends and who beckoned her to England.

Here is selected correspondence from a nearly twenty year friendship between American writer Helene and British bookstore employee Frank that began in 1949. It's fascinatin...more
Chris
If you love books, you MUST read this one! The letters that Helen and Frank (and the others) write back and forth tell the story so much better than any attempt at narrative form would have. You can't help but fall in love with everyone, and knowing that it's a work of NON-fiction just makes it all the more perfect.

I had wanted to get my hands on this book for a v. long time, and I'm so glad that I finally did. (And I couldn't have picked it up at a more perfect place--a library book sale--one o...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Lovely, fresh, light, charming. In these days of social media, where perfect strangers routinely end up meeting (or not) and corresponding with other perfect strangers, this kind of connection between two people and places may not seem much to 'write home about.' But Helene's generosity and her shyness about visiting combined with the 20-year unfolding of events in her own and the lives of Frank, his wife Nora, the rest of the staff at Marks & Co. and others, remind us that deep and meaningf...more
Jeannette
This little volume is marvelous on so many levels. From the book references, the account of the conditions in England after WWII, to the slow unfolding of the friendship between Helene Hanff and the staff at 84, Charing Cross Road. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a personal book seller who was also your friend? I am bemoaning the loss of my local Borders. But, do stores, and staff, like Marks and Co. still exist somewhere? Wouldn't it be lovely if they still do?

I plan to read this again and aga...more
Stela
Feb 24, 2014 Stela rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stela by: Ginny

I could have finished this tiny book in two hours or so, but I didn’t want to. I preferred to taste every word, to linger around every sentence, to search for a meaning even in punctuation marks. I wished that quest for books and friendship never ended. Books and friendship - the key words of all my life, unexpectedly gathered together in a bunch of letters about a growing friendship through books.

It is hard to speak about 84 Charing Cross Road without getting emotional, to judge it aesthetical...more
Monique
Jul 16, 2012 Monique rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Monique by: Aldrin

Original post here.

After reading this beautiful, touching book of correspondence, I almost checked our savings to see if it can withstand a pleasure trip to London. To 84, Charing Cross Road, specifically. Well, almost, but not quite.

I also entertained the idea of writing a letter to whoever may still receive it at that address – the old address of a secondhand book shop called Marks & Co., back in the 1950s-1960s. Another whimsical thought, I concede, because after several decades, of cour...more
S©aP
Un viaggio straordinario nell'understatement anglosassone, che diventa poesia. In poche pagine sobrie e divertenti. Vi si narra di libri. Tuttavia, senza parlarne mai o quasi, vi si narra anche di amicizia, austerità, dignità, rispetto, fatica esistenziale, gioia condivisa, educazione, affetti, amore, gelosia, viaggio, aspettative, desideri, dipartita, anzianità, crescita, tradizione, timidezza, corresponsione di sensi, gratitudine, riconoscenza...
O meglio: si lascia sapientemente che sia la no...more
Angie
I owe the discovery of this wonderful book to DH, before he was DH, in fact. He gave the movie to me for my birthday--the first birthday I had after we started dating. Along with the Old Friends Simon & Garfunkel box set and a kiss. At the time we were living in different cities and meeting up somewhere in the middle for our "dates." So I drove home that night and watched the movie all by myself. I cried. Twice. I laughed and laughed and laughed. And I went out and bought the book immediatel...more
JSou
There is no way I could end up not loving this. A book about old letters, books, and friendships made because of them? Sign me up. Really, it was beautiful. The edition I own on the other hand, not so much:

Photobucket

Not the best book porn, I admit--especially when reading about the beautiful antique editions Helene Hanff was receiving from the Marks & Co. bookstore. I ordered this from Better World Books (I'm a sucker for their free shipping) and ended up with this 1974 library edition. Although, as...more
Kelly
Sep 08, 2008 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: all book lovers
A lovely little gem of an epistolary collection that I slid through this weekend in less than two hours. A correspondence between a New York writer and lover of old, out of print books and the employees of a small London bookshop, it has a deceptively memorable effect for its small size. A must for every book-lover who can sympathize with the horror of opening an edition of a treasured book and finding your favorite passage missing, every lover of language who is deeply touched by vulgar transla...more
Francesco Scarlata
E’ un gioiello prezioso questo libretto!
Si legge in una sera, in pochissimo tempo. E in pochissimo tempo si percorrono i tanti anni di un’amicizia bella, sincera, spiritosa e duratura, nata sulla carta nel 1949, e mai finita, nonostante i due corrispondenti non abbiano mai avuto la possibilità di fuggire dalla carta e di incontrarsi nella vita vera.
Helene Hanff, squattrinata scrittrice americana e appassionata di libri antichi (e poco costosi!), scrive alla Marks and Co di Londra, famosa librer...more
Tina
Original post from One More Page

Here's a little fact: I love snail mail. I love letters, specifically. I think it started when our third grade teacher taught us about letter writing, and we had to pick pen pals within the class. I loved getting letters in the mail, but since my classmates and I live close to each other, it's not really that practical to be pen pals with them. When I was in sixth grade, though, my best friend from elementary school moved to the United States. We didn't have much...more
Troy


**SPOILERS**


If you’ve anything approaching a love of books and reading it would be hard not to enjoy this short volume of carefully selected (and I imagine, carefully edited) correspondence between Helene Hanff, a New York script reader/writer, Anglophile and bibliophile, and Frank Doel, assiduous employee of “Marks & Co., Booksellers” in London who supplies Helene’s request for good, clean second hand (and often antiquarian) books. Their letters commence towards the end of 1949, and once He...more
Rosana
This is one of my all times favorite books. I have re-read it too many times to keep track, and I have given many copies to friends.

I find it uplifting when I need something upbeat to read. It is also perfect when I have just a couple of hours to devote to a book. But its size - so short - is no indication of the richness in it. This collection of letters between strangers reveals so much about them and the lives that they led: dreams of travel, love of books, financial troubles, solidarity, fr...more
Kirk
Good friends of mine, Dan and Sandy Kendall (whose brother used to be married to my aunt) recommended this short, epistolary romance to me. I read it in one sitting---it's that quick (clocking in at 95 pages) and, yes, that lovely. It's a nostalgic book, reminding one of a time when the thought of love and friendship blossoming over talk of the Collected Works of Walter Savage Landor didn't seem precious. The basic premise is that a New York bibliophile strikes up a relationship with the staff a...more
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Helene Hanff (April 15, 1916–April 9, 1997) was an American writer. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she is best known as the author of the book 84 Charing Cross Road, which became the basis for a play, teleplay, and film of the same name.

Her career, which saw her move from writing unproduced plays to helping create some of the earliest television dramas to becoming a kind of professional New Y...more
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“I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me.” 100 likes
“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.” 59 likes
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