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Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  2,101 Ratings  ·  319 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
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 3rd 2003 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 10, 2007 Zoe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Sep 16, 2016 Denny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fun read. I need to go to this town that has 40 used bookstores!
M. D.  Hudson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tejas Janet
Aug 03, 2016 Tejas Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bibliophiles
This book about the author's year-long stay, circa 2000, in the small Welsh village of Hay is quirky, reflective, and highly entertaining. With his wife and young son, Paul Collins moves to Hay, a "book town" that is home to 1500 residents and 40 book stores - one book store for every 37.5 people! While there, the author is finalizing his first published book, and hoping to make Hay his long-term home.

These pages reveal his abiding love and knowledge for dusty, old tomes from earlier centuries
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
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
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
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.
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
Jul 29, 2013 Ms.pegasus rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
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
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
Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 Bonnie Jeanne rated it really liked it
This book is a gem. For one thing, the author and his wife don't own a (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
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
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 zinātniskajiem
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
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
Dec 02, 2012 Edel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Apr 19, 2010 Stefan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-politics
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.
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.
Sep 26, 2007 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 04, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok
Perhaps the two stars are because this wasn't very interesting. Perhaps they're because I'm jealous. The author was just casually browsing in the biggest used bookstore in Hay-on-Wye, fell into conversation with the owner, and just like that was offered the job of organizing the American fiction section. That would never happen to me, and it's not fair. hmmf.
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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,
More about Paul Collins...

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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. 10 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.” 7 likes
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