Dear independent bookshops,
No matter how listless I’ve felt, or how boring everything seemed, you were always there to make me happy. From The Scan Bookshop in Cumbernauld, Scotia Books in Kilsyth, Edinburgh Bookshop, and The Book Nook, you’ve all been there for me in different ways. Not all of you are here any more. There was Looking Glass Books, which I fell in love with the moment I saw the shiny black and white floor. You were the first bookshop I performed my well-honed one man show. I’m sorry it was such a disaster. Perhaps it was the week night, or just the lack of promotion, but I didn’t know what to do. Now I know. You taught me a valuable lesson in knowing how best to present myself. Now you’re gone, but I think about you occasionally. Then there was The Scan, which was the only bookshop I knew when I was a child. I’d visit you when I was alone, which was often. You always had a list of the new Doctor Who books, which I’d order out of the library because I couldn’t afford to pay for them. Sorry about that! In the end, you and Looking Glass Books were felled not by Kindle or changes in the marketplace – it was high rent and Amazon, enemies of all bookshops.
Then there’s The Edinburgh Bookshop, who always treated me like a big deal, even though I’m only that in my alternate world. You let me sign your famous ladder, the one with all the famous authors on it. You made me tea and managed to book me some live events. Also, thank you for that signed copy of Luckenbooth. It arrived quickly on my doorstep during the lockdown and now sits on my shelf alongside the other new books. I wanted to visit you last week when I was in Edinburgh, but it’s been so long I forgot how to find you on foot. These lockdowns have literally made me feel lost.
Scotia Books in Kilsyth. You’ve always been wonderful, not just to me but your community, who haven’t always appreciated you the way you deserve. They don’t know how hard you work, how much goes into making your shop feel comfortable and effortless for visitors. You are amazing and if anything ever happened to you, it would be a disaster for many school libraries and their librarians.
Then there’s The Book Nook in Stirling, the product of a dream and hard work, which comes out in everything from the design to the food and the friendly atmosphere. Stirling is a lot cooler now you’re there. Also, it’s genuinely a good place to hang out, eat food, and see books. If I had my own bookshop, I’d like to think it would be like The Book Nook – but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good, let’s be honest.
These places are more than just shops that sell books. They’re the purest sort of place you can get, because they were the dreams of people who first found books when they were children. Imagine getting to live your dream life? It’s so rare, and booksellers are the biggest fans and readers of books imaginable. Just like Librarians, they live strange and wonderful (and sometimes deeply humdrum) lives to keep readers happy whether that’s in the high street, at home, or somewhere else, probably between pages.
PS Happy #IndependentBookshopWeek!