Uncle John’s Quiz for Independent Bookstore Day

April 13, 2023

Uncle John is obviously into bookstores and loves to celebrate their whole undeniable and unique vibe, so April 29 is a pretty big deal at the Bathroom Readers’ Institute. How much do you know about some of the world’s greatest proprietors of books? Get lost in the stacks with this quiz.


Congrats! You should reward yourself by running to the nearest independent bookstore for a copy of Uncle John’s Awesome 35th Anniversary Bathroom Reader…or order it through!

Oof, looks like you need a heavy injection of trivia. Head to your nearest independent bookstore for a copy of Uncle John’s Awesome 35th Anniversary Bathroom Reader…or order it through!

#1. Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China, is one of the world’s few underground bookstores. It occupies a space that’s been a lot of other things — all but which of the following?

Operating in its current form since 2004, the Librairie Avant-Garde also houses a coffee shop and a lending library. Before that, the subterranean building was a parking lot, and before that it was a large bomb shelter.


#2. What unique part of the business plan of the 1200 Bookshop in Guangzhou, China, should be thrilling to the most voracious of book-lovers?

The 1200 Bookshop is open 24 hours a day. Travelers, tourists, and backpackers are also free to lodge there overnight, as long as they arrange the stay by email before they arrive. To accommodate travelers, the 1200 Bookshop offers the use of a kitchen and a bar.


#3. What’s the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the world?

The Moravian, the U.S.’s longest open bookstore, has changed locations, owners, and formats a few times since it started out as a religious bookstore in 1745. Hatchards is the oldest extant bookstore in the U.K. (opening in 1797), and Librairie Galignani is France’s eldest English-language bookseller, open since 1801. That leaves the Livraria Bertrand, or Bertrand Bookstore, the Guinness World Records-certified oldest bookshop on the planet. The flagship in a Portuguese chain that also includes a publishing wing, the Livraria Bertrand has been around since 1732.


#4. Independent bookstore Shakespeare and Company also published one of the most progressive works of modern literature. What book?

English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company opened in Paris in 1919. Three years later, after no traditional publishers would touch Ulysses, ahead of its time and labeled as obscene by some, the bookstore printed and distributed it. Shakespeare and Company closed during the Nazi occupation of World War II and never reopened, but it inspired the operations and name of a different Shakespeare and Company that opened on Paris’s Left Bank in 1951.


#5. In 1985, a woman named Mariko Aoki wrote a letter to Japan’s Book Magazine, and the bookstore experience she details resulted in a phenomenon named in her honor. What is “Mariko Aoki phenomenon”?

Behavioral scientists had looked into the notion of bookstore browsing triggering the need to defecate since the 1950s, but Aoki’s letter was a watershed moment. Book Magazine received dozens of reports from readers who’d experienced the same urge as Aoki. Following a 14-page report on the mystery, the idea was part of the culture — and scientists still don’t know why it happens.


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