Book Review: Bookish People by Susan J. Coll

Posted August 11, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger / 39 Comments

Bookish People
One StarOne StarOne Star

by Susan J. Coll
Publication Date August 4, 2022
Published by HarperCollins Focus
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Genres: Fiction / Romance / Contemporary, Fiction / Women
Pages: 336
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

A perfect storm of comedic proportions erupts in a DC bookstore over the course of one soggy summer week--narrated by two very different women and punctuated by political turmoil, a celestial event, and a perpetually broken vacuum cleaner.

Independent bookstore owner Sophie Bernstein is burned out on books. Mourning the death of her husband, the loss of her favorite manager, her only child's lack of aspiration, and the grim state of the world, she fantasizes about going into hiding in the secret back room of her store.

Meanwhile, renowned poet Raymond Chaucer has published a new collection, and rumors that he's to blame for his wife's suicide have led to national cancellations of his publicity tour. He intends to set the record straight--with an ultra-fine-point Sharpie--but only one shop still plans to host him: Sophie's.

Fearful of potential repercussions from angry customers, Sophie asks Clemi--bookstore events coordinator, aspiring novelist, and daughter of a famed literary agent--to cancel Raymond's appearance. But Clemi suspects Raymond might be her biological father, and she can't say no to the chance of finding out for sure.

This big-hearted screwball comedy features an intergenerational cast of oblivious authors and over-qualified booksellers--as well as a Russian tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.--and captures the endearing quirks of some of the best kinds of people: the ones who love good books.

Praise for Bookish People:

"A smart, original, laugh-out-loud novel . . . If you sell, buy, or simply love books, Bookish People is for you. I wholeheartedly recommend this quirky gem." --Sarah Pekkanen, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Golden Couple

  • Witty, hilarious, and heartwarming contemporary book about books
  • Stand-alone novel
  • Book length: approximately 84,000 words
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs

Bookish People by Susan J. Coll is a light, humorous bookish book that takes place in a large bookstore in Washington, D.C. 

Sophie Bernstein owns a large bookstore in DC and is ready to call it quits and just hide.  She’s still mourning for her husband, she’s frustrated with her only son’s life choices and she’s about to lose her manager as he pursues a law degree.  She just wants to hide from life, in a small hidden room in the bookstore. 

Clemi, Sophie’s event coordinator for the bookstore has booked Raymond Chaucer, a controversial poet for an event in the store.  Raymond has been accused in the media of killing his wife, however, he has not been charged with murder by the police.  Most of his events were canceled because of security reasons, and no other bookstore wants to be associated with a possible murderer. 

Sophie asks Clemi to cancel Raymond’s book event, but, Clemi can’t bring herself to cancel because she has other reasons for wanting to see the famous poet.  She decides to hire extra security for the event, but that also backfires.  Will Sophie find peace in her little room?  Will the author event be successful?  

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I love a bookish book, but this one was slow to get into.  First of all, there was a lot going on in this book, and it was difficult to keep track of all the issues of these characters.  Second was the characters themselves.  I only found one character that I was rooting for, and that was a tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  The other characters all were too self-involved or just not sympathetic.  I can understand that we don’t always like every character, but I would have wanted some more relatable and sympathetic characters in a book of this genre, that is marketed as a rom-com.  

After a slow and somewhat confusing start, the story did pick up a bit and the ending was funny and satisfying.  Kurt, the tortoise, was really the star of this book, in my opinion!  I did enjoy the bookstore and the descriptions of the store and some of the customers.  I’m glad I read the book, as I found it overall a good book.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Susan J. Coll

Susan Coll’s new novel, BOOKISH PEOPLE, will be published by Harper Muse in August, 2022. She is also the author of the novels The Stager, Beach Week, Acceptance, Rockville Pike, and

Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times,,, The Millions, and a variety of other publications including The Asian Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. Her novel, Acceptance, was made into a television movie starring the hilarious Joan Cusack.

Susan is the president of the PEN/Faulkner foundation. She is the recipient of a 2022 grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She teaches an intensive year-long novel workshop at The Writer’s Center, and worked as the Events and Programs Director at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC, for five years, and is now an Events Advisor.

Have you read Bookish People by Susan Coll? Do you like bookish books?

39 responses to “Book Review: Bookish People by Susan J. Coll

  1. ndxhdshygjyerhf I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!! i’m sorry the book ended up being such a huge disappointment though 😭 the synopsis kind of hints at PERFECTION with it being SET IN A BOOKSTORE + all the mix of hilarious!! ALSO FEATURING TORTOISES OMG!! i’d read it just for that tbh 😭 LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!

  2. I really struggle with a book when I find the characters unlikable or unsympathetic. It’s hard for me to connect (or care) when that happens. I’m glad it was still overall satisfying for you.

  3. Ha ha! This is a great review. I especially love that the only character you were rooting for was a tortoise, lol. 😀 Sorry it wasn’t as successful as you wanted.

  4. I love that your favorite character is a tortoise. 🤣 I do feel for the poet who is “tried by media.” That happens too often and too frequently unfairly.

    • I agree, Linda. There needs to be a better balance between “reporting” the news and “sensationalizing” the news.

  5. It sounds like it would be hard to completely love this one with a confusing plot, unlikable characters and a lot going on. Glad to hear you enjoyed it somewhat, though. 🙂

  6. I’m glad this one picked up by the end! It can be hard to stick with a book when they start out kind of iffy.

  7. I love a bookstore book, and I’m intrigued by the tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut, but it sounds like this one could have been better.

  8. I love that the tortoise was your favorite character, but that’s sad too! I agree, you need a relatable human character in a book like this 😉

  9. This book was on my maybe list Wendy. Our taste in books are similar and your review has helped me decide to give this one a pass. Thank you for sharing your helpful review! Now onto the next one!

  10. Love the tortoise name – perfect. I agree with Tessa about character likability in rom-coms. That’s disappointing it was lacking in this novel, because a bookstore is a perfect setting. Glad the pacing picked up for you.

  11. I think character likability is very important in romcoms and even women’s fiction. It sounds like a lot is happening and that definitely can be very good or very bad. A lot of times a focused plot is easier to read. Love that the turtle’s name is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – that cracks me up.

  12. Jenny+McClinton

    Great review, I find slow reads hard sometimes especially when I’m tired which is most of the time 😂