“Where is human nature so weak as in the book store?” asked Henry Ward Beecher (preacher, religious writer and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe). He’s quite right. No matter how strong the resolution not to buy more books until the pile by the bed is drastically reduced, somehow I find it very hard to leave a bookshop without making a purchase.
Book shops are just the most wonderful shops in the world. The minute I enter one, I feel a sense of belonging, calm and anticipation. I love the smell, I love the sight of all those books on shelves just waiting to be bought and read – what untold hours of pleasure they will bring to thousands of people. But mostly I love the sense of discovery. If you shop for books on-line (and yes, I know books are cheaper that way, and they are delivered to your door) you do not have nearly the same chance of discovering some book you know you just have to read. You do not as quickly and efficiently get a sense of what new books are out, what fashions there are in cover design or what new themes are in vogue. No on-line book buying will bring the same tactile pleasure and serendipitous discoveries.
While many people are now finding a good balance between e-readers and physical books, our fabulous book shops are struggling. I do some on-line shopping, but try to make sure that at least two thirds of the books I buy are from bookshops. I always arrange to meet friends in a bookshop – if the friend is late, I am happily browsing as I wait. I give talks in book shops to encourage people to buy, and when overseas I find the best way to learn about a region is to visit a bookshop and see what ‘local authors’ are being promoted there.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? I love Abbey’s in Sydney, Muirs in Gisborne (N.Z.), Hatchards and Jarndyce’s in London, Heffers in Cambridge, Blackwell’s in Oxford, and any book shop that is kind enough to stock and sell my books. Book shops can also be places of great beauty and history. Have a look at some of these: 10 of the Worlds Most Beautiful Bookshops and these: 30 Most Beautiful Bookshops Around The World And this month how about visiting your local bookshop and making a purchase. We need to keep these incredible institutions in business!
Let me know what you think, and if you have a favourite bookshop? Tell me why you think it is so special in the comment area below.
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