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Behind the Bookshelves

Books & Literature

A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.

A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.


United States


A podcast from AbeBooks. This series is dedicated to telling the stories behind books and the people who love them. We'll salute classic novels and famous authors, investigate long-forgotten books, and discuss publishing houses, libraries, bookshops, and anyone else with a bookish story to tell.






The Mystery of Mrs Christie

We investigate one of the great literary mysteries – the 11-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 - with Marie Benedict, the author of The Mystery of Mrs Christie. Marie used a fictional narrative to imagine the disappearance and the events leading up to it. A real-life mystery about the queen of fictional mysteries.



We are joined by Pen Vogler who is the author of Scoff: A History of Food and Class in Britain. The book investigates British food traditions from humble fish and chips to posh dinner parties. We discuss tea, comfort food, curries, Cornish pasties, pork pies, avocado, and oranges in Christmas stockings.


Takaya Lone Wolf

We are joined by Cheryl Alexander, a conservation photographer based in Victoria, British Columbia. Her book, Takaya Lone Wolf describes the remarkable life of a wolf that lived for 7 years on a group of small islands just off the coast of Victoria, a city of 300,000 people. We learn how Cheryl studied and photographed Takaya on numerous visits to the islands, and about this animal's lasting legacy in British Columbia.


The Sifter

We meet the team from The Sifter, an international, collaborative database of cookbooks designed to help people answer their food-related questions. Containing details of 8,000 authors and more than 7,000 works, The Sifter is a remarkable research tool detailing cookbooks and their contents down to the ingredients for particular recipes. We learn how the database has been years in the making and how it’s going to help scholars, researchers, cooks, scientists, and historians.


Burnside Rare Books in Portland

We return to Portland, Oregon, and speak to Rachel Phillips and Roger Hucek from Burnside Rare Books. They specialize in 20th century literature and signed books, and they have been selling books together since 2006. We discuss their bookselling evolution, the importance of photography, book fairs and much more.


Collecting Baseball Books

We're at the ballpark, talking baseball. Bookseller Bobby Plapinger, from Ashland in Oregon, joins us. Bobby is a specialist baseball book dealer. Babe Ruth, early baseball books, cards vs books, and the belated interest in the Negro Leagues are just some of the topics we discuss.


Shakespeare Discovery

Learn how John Stone, from the University of Barcelona, discovered a rare 1634 edition of Shakespeare's play The Two Noble Kinsmen, co-written with John Fletcher, in the library of a small Scottish college in Spain.


Gladstone's Library

Today, we are Flintshire in the UK, visiting the UK's only residential library. We speak with Peter Francis who is the Warden and Director of Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, which is a few miles west of Chester. William Ewart Gladstone served 4 separate terms as Britain's prime minster between in 1868 and 1894. Today his personal library is available to the public, housed in a building where you can also spend the night. Join us to learn more about this remarkable library.


Bookselling in County Mayo

Today, we head to County Mayo on the west coast of the Republic of Ireland and speak to Roger Grimes, who is the co-owner of a bookshop and antiques business located in Mulranny. Vanessa Parker Rare Books and its sister business Greenway Antiques share a beautiful white-walled cottage. Vanessa does the books and Roger sells the antiques. Join us to hear about life and business in this beautiful part of the world.


Book of Trespass

We are joined by author and printmaker Nick Hayes, who has written a book called The Book of Trespass. Nick takes us into some of England’s grandest country estates… as a trespasser. He writes about how easy it to trespass and what he encountered while trespassing. He also writes at length about the history of trespassing in England – from the years following the Norman Conquest to today’s campaigns over the right to roam through the British countryside. We discuss the history of land...


Bookselling in Bulgaria

We are talking about bookselling in the Balkans with Ian Dodds, who is an AbeBooks bookseller based in Bulgaria. Ian and his wife left the UK in 2007 to live and work in Bulgaria, and we hear about how they established an online bookselling business in a mountain village close to the border with Greece.


Travels with a Stick

In our latest podcast, we speak to Church of Scotland minister Richard Frazer, who is the author of Travels With a Stick, a book about walking the Camino de Santiago. We discuss blisters, Robert Macfarlane’s influence on walking literature, John Muir’s dislike of the word 'hiking', and why pilgrimages are important.


Things Found in Books Part 2

We return to the subject of things found in used books. Our guest is Emma Smreker, a school teacher from Oklahoma City, who collects secondhand books in order to discover the forgotten things left inside. When she comes across something particularly poignant, such as a letter or a photo or a poem, she researches the item and tries to return it to the original owner. Learn about the remarkable connections that Emma is making through these forgotten objects.


Death by Shakespeare

We visit the theatre and discuss Shakespearean deaths with author Kathryn Harkup, who has written a book called Death by Shakespeare. Kathryn looked at how the Bard killed off his characters and asked if these deaths were realistic. She considered science, medicine, disease, weaponry, poisons, crimes and punishments, and Elizabethan history. We discuss Shakespeare's bloodiest play, how he didn't always get it right, the Bard's stagecraft skills and how he probably got some assistance from...


Art of Advertising

We are joined by Julie Anne Lambert, who is the Librarian of the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, to discuss the Bodleian's Art of Advertising exhibition. We talk about the origins of the Johnson Collection, what ephemera tells us about history, the importance of soap, and the early advertising posters.


Artist Jo Mora

We’re discussing the American artist Jo Mora (1876-1947) with Peter Hillier from the Jo Mora Trust. Mora should be much better known than he is. He worked across many mediums, including books and maps, and dedicated much of his work to the American West and particularly California. Mora was a cartoonist, a sculptor, a painter, a photographer, an author and an illustrator. He traveled and lived in Arizona and California where he recorded, through his art, the lives of the Hopi and Navajo...


Botanist Joseph Banks

We are discussing the legacy of pioneering botanist Joseph Banks with Mark James from Type & Forme, a rare bookselling firm in the UK. Banks traveled to Australia with Captain Cook on a voyage that began in 1768 and ended in 1771. Along the way, Banks and his colleagues discovered and recorded around 1,300 previously undocumented botanical species. We learn how Banks revolutionized botany and yet failed to publish a book of his work during his lifetime.


Cultivated Elements of Floral Style

We are joined by Christin Geall, the author of Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style - a new book about floral design. With almost 100,000 followers on Instagram, Christin is a designer, writer, gardener, and photographer. Her book features stunning photography of arrangements and offers advice to anyone who wants to get creative with cut flowers.


Worlds of JRR Tolkien

Today, we are going on a journey to Middle-Earth. We speak to John Garth, the author of The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth. John's book identifies the real places that inspired the fictional locations of The Shire, Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Mordor. Learn about Tolkien's childhood, his WWI experiences in the trenches, and his dislike for Oxford traffic.


The Book of Black Magic

The Book of Black Magic, written by mystic A.E. Waite, was first published in 1898. A prolific author, Waite was a member of a secret magical society devoted to the occult and he also co-created one of the most popular of all tarot decks. Discover the story behind Waite's Book of Black Magic.