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Behind the Bookshelves

Books & Literature


United States






Canterbury Tales App

We speak to Peter Robinson from the University of Saskatchewan about how his team has just launched an app that brings us Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original colloquial Middle English. The free app is the first edition in a planned series. It features a 45-minute audio performance of the General Prologue from the Tales along with the digitized manuscript and supporting content. We discuss Chaucer's influence on the English language, his social status in the 14th century and his other...


Passages Bookshop in Portland

We are joined by bookseller David Abel who owns Passages Bookshop in Portland, Oregon. David discusses his life in bookselling from being a book scout to running bookshops in New York, Albuquerque and now Portland. We also learn how a break-in recently affected Passages Bookshop and how a famous bibliophile offered to help.


Amelia Island Book Festival

Bestselling author David Baldacci speaks to us about the Amelia Island Book Festival, which occurs in February. David, honorary chair of the 2020 festival, explains the appeal of Amelia Island, why he supports book festivals, and reveals the most unusual question that he's been asked at a festival.


NYC Literary Walking Tours

If you like pubs and literary history then you will enjoy this podcast. We interview Eric Chase. His company offers literary pub crawls and walking tours around New York's Greenwich Village and Brooklyn too. We discuss Dylan Thomas and the White Horse Tavern, Washington Square's long history, and numerous authors from Edith Wharton to Jack Kerouac. We also discover who is most likely to over-indulgence on a literary pub crawl. Buckle up for a books and beer podcast.


Business of Medieval Manuscripts

We are joined by Erik Kwakkel, a professor in book history at the University of British Columbia. Erik explains the commercial trade behind medieval manuscripts, including the role of scribes in the period before the invention of movable type. We learn how these tradesmen advertised their services, where you'd find them, and about their customers.


American Alpine Club Library

We're talking about mountaineering books with Eric Rueth, the library manager of the American Alpine Club in Golden, Colorado. The library has more than 50,000 books covering mountaineering history, mountain culture, and climbing routes. We discuss George Mallory, Everest, Into Thin Air, and the origins of mountaineering books.


Bison Books in Winnipeg

We are joined by Aimee Peake, who is the owner of Bison Books in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada. This antiquarian bookshop opened in 2000 and Aimee took over the business in 2010. It offers around 20,000 books for sale. We discuss Aimee’s start in bookselling aged 19, her mentor, the infamous Winnipeg winters, her bookstore dog-in-training, and the joy of Kitchen Confidential.


Shakespeare's Library

We are joined by author & bibliophile Stuart Kells, who has written a book called Shakespeare’s Library. He investigates the mystery of what happened to Shakespeare’s library. For centuries, people have searched for it – but there has been no trace of the Bard’s manuscripts, books, or letters. We also touch on booksellers, fraudsters, actors and the vital question of who actually wrote the Shakespeare plays.


Conjuring Arts Library

We are joined by William Kalush, who is the director of the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York. The Center is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of performance magic, including the history of playing cards, ventriloquism, juggling, deception, and sleight of hand tricks. The Center offers an extensive library of books and periodicals. and aims to provide the world’s most expansive collection of material relating to conjuring. We discuss Ricky Jay, Tommy Cooper, Houdini,...


Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

We interview collector, bookseller and activist Lisa Unger Baskin, who has amassed a vast collection of books and printed material dedicated to showing women in work over the centuries. Now placed with Duke University, highlights from the collection will be exhibited at the Grolier Club in Manhattan. Lisa describes how she put the collection together, and how humble objects can shed light on women’s role in work and society.


Collecting Books about Rockets

Michael Ciancone works as a NASA engineer. In his spare time, he collects early books about rockets and spaceflight. His collection spans more than 600 books published prior to 1958, including many hard-to-find titles from Russian authors. In our latest podcast, Michael discusses his collection and the challenges of collecting books on such a specialist subject.


Moe's Books in Berkeley

We interview Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books in Berkeley. With four floors of books, Moe’s has been a bookselling institution since the 1960s when Berkeley was at the heart of America’s free speech movement. We discuss her father, Moe, her mom, Barbara, cigars, hippies, the 1960s, being a working mom, being fired, the nearby university, millennial confusion, and why Moe’s has a huge philosophy section.


Movable Book Society

We are joined by Shawn Sheehy from the Movable Book Society. The society was founded in 1993 to share enthusiasm about pop-up and movable books. Shawn is a book artist and a paper engineer. Discover how pop-up books are created, their long history, and why paper engineering fascinates children, collectors and people who love books when the art that literally pops up off the page.


Food History

We are joined by Sadie Hirst, a food historian from Lincolnshire in the UK. Sadie is a collector of antiquarian and vintage cookbooks. She also speaks about food history at numerous events and runs historical cookery workshops. We discuss what cookbooks tell us about history, Georgian recipes, butter-making kitchenalia, and other mouthwatering topics.


Collecting Film Scripts

We’re at the movies and talking about the growing phenomenon of collecting film scripts. Bookseller and author Kevin Johnson reveals why film scripts are so desirable, how studios and production teams have created and used scripts over the decades, the most expensive script he has ever sold, and why scripts from Night of the Living Dead are so difficult to find.


Voynich Mystery Continues

We are joined by Lisa Fagin Davis, who is the Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America, to discuss the on-going mystery of the Voynich Manuscript. Housed in the Yale library, this 15th century manuscript is written in a language that can't be decoded. Lisa explains why so many theories about its meaning and creation just don't add up.


Book Restoration

We are joined by bo0k restorer Sophia Bogle, who has just written a book called Book Restoration Unveiled. Sophia now teaches book restoration. Her book explains the craft through case studies, illustrations, and interviews with clients and people in the industry. Our interview tackles the tools, the terminology, the most common forms of damage, the pros and cons of restoration, and some of the remarkable repair jobs that have come her way in the past 25 years.


Dance of Death

The Dance of Death is a grim art genre, found in books and art, that began in the 15th century where Death appears in the living world in order to claim its next victim. Professor and author Elina Gertsman from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio explains the origins of these grisly illustrations where Death can never be avoided.


Vancouver's Mobile Bookshop

Iron Dog Books is a red van - a mobile bookshop that brings affordable books to many parts of Vancouver. We speak to Hilary Atleo who runs, and drives, this bookselling business with her husband Cliff. We discuss the van's connection to boat-building, city bylaws, and how people react to a bookshop on wheels.


Buying a Bookstore

Medellee Antonioli is part of the new generation of booksellers. The 34-year-old is now the proud owner of a used bookstore after buying the Used Book Emporium in Bozeman, Montana. She joins us to discuss the joys and challenges of buying a bookshop, and fulfilling one of her dreams. If you’ve ever wanted to own a bookstore, then this podcast interview is for you.