Before Amazon, Alibris and ABE came along, buying a book entailed a good and often rewarding amount of human interaction. I still sometimes find that when I order a book from a small bookshop, the book arrives carefully wrapped, and, when I'm lucky, contains a quick note from the seller expressing their own love of the book they've sent. It's a fading world, but some of the best of it is captured in the letters that make up 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff's 1970 classic that treats readers to a 20-year exchange between a devoted (but cranky) book-buying New Yorker and a buttoned up bookseller in London. The long-distance relationship that develops between Hanff and the staff of Marks & Co. over these decades is moving, funny and life-changing for all involved. The book was later made into a quiet but wonderful film.

[As a side note, the edition shown above is the first book I ever sent to my (now) wife during our own long-distance courtship. She made me then read this, and I knew we were off to a great start.]

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