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Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,532 ratings  ·  260 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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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 3rd 2003 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2003)
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195th out of 290 books — 162 voters
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Historical Fiction, House as a Character or Theme
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Zoe
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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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Megan
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
M. D.  Hudson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Colleen
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.
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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Elly Sands
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
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
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
Ms.pegasus
Jul 29, 2013 Ms.pegasus rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeannen
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
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
jennifer
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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Cheryl
I did like this. It was more Notes from a Small Island and less Books: A Memoir. Still I shake my head about him shipping books (including "bad" books because of their interesting titles) back and forth across the Atlantic. I'll never understand hoarding - public libraries and bookcrossing.com are the way to go! However, he writes of history, the British character, his child, the good people of Hay-on-Wye, and more with easy grace and no small wit, as the literary cliches go. I did prefer his wa ...more
Edel
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
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
Afton Nelson
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.
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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Stefan
Paul Collins is a very gifted writer who entertainingly mixed the personal story of his family's life in Wales with a variety of odd facts and eccentric people. Collins humorous narrative of a small town, full of secondhand bookstores and interesting people, kept me rolling with laughter. I found that the story was made even more interesting by Collins' reference to a large number of obscure books and forgotten authors.
Hallie
Oct 30, 2014 Hallie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angelique
In the end, I just found this book to be sadly dull. Nothing really happens; the author moves to what seems like it could be an interesting place which he doesn't bring to life at all, muses about a lot of pretty disconnected LitFic-y things, tries with his family to buy various houses to make their move official, then (view spoiler) ...more
Mark
I was actually blurbed on the back cover of the hardcover edition, so clearly, this book spun my personal crankshaft. I went into it cold and it completely won me over. It's a book for book lovers, and as such, there's no one on this social network who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. If only to feel like someone out there really *gets* you.
Andrea
I think I may have checked this book out on my Kindle based on a quick glance at the cover and basic description, so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a charming, rambling little memoir of the author’s year in living in Hay-On-Wye, a small town of bookshops, books, and booklovers on the border of England and Wales. I found Collin’s voice to be entertaining and his humor rather British. He himself is an odd duck – an American raised by Brits that doesn’t quite feel he fits in wi ...more
Danielle
This memoir is really about books themselves, and their fate. As an author with his first book about to come out and as an avid collector of rare and aged tomes, Collins is acutely aware of how likely it is that he, and the books he writes, will eventually be forgotten. He describes one bookstore as the de facto library of the forgotten, with both everything you could want and everything that nobody could ever want” (106). There are piles of books sitting out in the elements in Hay, remainders s ...more
David
Interesting, light, a certain charm, by a Brit with a flair for writing. As one commentator has written "This book barely seemed to have a purpose, except maybe as a vehicle for the ... guy's other book, whatever it is. He devotes enormous swaths of chapters to the detailed description of unrelated conversations, in depth quotations of random books -- even complete plot summaries of these random books. These would not be amiss, really, in a book about 'being lost among books'"
I'll pass, pleasant
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821970
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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More about Paul Collins...
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living

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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. 8 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.” 5 likes
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