When most people think of independent bookstores, they usually think of a shop in a big city, something beautiful, picturesque, architecturally significant. Something you’d find in London or Paris. Bookstores from movies, perhaps, Notting Hill, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Big Sleep, When Harry Met Sally. And of course these bookstores are brilliant, stacked with classics, antiques, cozy corners.
But the bookshops I love the most are those where the books are housed in piles with dingy floors, shelves that seem to be holding up the roof, in a filing system that only the eccentric, well-read, staff seem to understand. Some of my favorite bookstore memories remain among those stacks. Or piles, or whatever they were.
Who doesn’t love the thrill of finding a favourite writer among the pile of discounted books piled up outside the door? When some obscure book you’ve never heard of but is just the thing you’re looking for, comes tumbling down off the dusty shelf? Isn’t an hour, or two, or three, just the thing when you discover a bookstore in some forgotten part of a town you barely know? How can you resist?
I seek out these smaller regional bookstores, both because they need the support, but it’s also a question of attitude: staff tend to be a little less harried, they can spend more time chatting with a customer, they’re a little less judgmental, and their stock tends to be a little broader. There’s less specialization, perhaps less sophistication, but that’s the beauty. Romance and fantasy can rub shoulders with literature and classics, which makes it much more likely that a reader will have the opportunity to pass from one genre to another, which may open them up to a wider reading experience. Good bookstores allow these possibilities.
Some of my favorites that I’ve discovered in my travels include:
Polar Peak Books, Fernie
Analog Books, Lethbridge
Owl’s Nest Books, Calgary
Parry Sound Books, Parry Sound
Mermaid Tales Bookshop, Tofino
Wee Book Inn, Edmonton
Bolen Books, Victoria
Pages on Kensington, Calgary
Russell Books, Victoria
Coho Books, Campbell River
April 30th is Canadian Independent Bookstore Day - get out and support them!
In the meantime, happy reading.