Sunday, July 1, 2012

Independent Booksellers Week

It seems I really don't pay attention to what's going on around me sometimes. I saw this in yesterdays Guardian - Julian Barnes on his life as a bibliophile, but only had time to go back and read it tonight and so finally saw mention of Independent Booksellers Week (shame on me). Barnes writes brilliantly about being a reader and book lover, I read the whole article going yes, Yes, YES - that's me! Except for the bits about collecting first editions, that sadly is not me. 

Independent book shops deserve celebrating and more importantly supporting. The closest one I have and use at the moment is the rather wonderful Astley Book Farm, it's all second hand books, with an excellent range including some real rarities, also and most important - the ladies who run it are knowledgeable and welcoming. 

The Scottish Borders by contrast are well provided for by a string of independent book shops (the list on this link is not exhaustive but gives a good indication). My favourite is probably the Mainstreet Trading Company (the cafe is really good too) but they're all excellent and I've had serendipitous discoveries in most of them - and there's still time for the others. 
Leakey's in Inverness, worth the journey for this place alone!

In a week I'll be in Shetland (quite excited) which is served by The Shetland Times Bookshop. This is the first bookshop I knew, it still has a place in my heart, it's small and mostly a stationers but has a decent selection of books including a range of local interest things they publish themselves. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent in there, I still get a buzz of anticipation every time I go in there and am delighted that whatever else has changed this institution remains.

Amazon, Waterstones, even on occasion W H Smiths are all great, but as the Mainstreet Bookshop in St Boswells demonstrates so well how an independent bookshop can be a huge boon to a community, this place is a destination - an imaginative bookshop both for adults and children, that very good cafe with wall space that works as a gallery, a small selection of antiques, other more general gifty items, a packed programme of events - it's all going on; the area would be much the poorer without them. Waterstones in Leicester does it's best, which isn't bad, but they don't come close to providing the community focus a really good independent can - something that's as important in a city as it is in rural areas. Times are tough for retailers everywhere so it's more important than ever to invest in the businesses doing it right and make sure those rare spare pounds go to a good home.

Any and all independent bookshop recommendations gratefully received.   

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