I recently visited a bookshop for the first time in ages. Browsing the shelves, picking up books at random, reading back covers and ruffling through the pages was a true joy.
I’ve had a love affair with bookshops for decades now. As a child, I discovered the joys of reading mostly through my local public library, but when I became old enough to have money to spend on books, I took great pleasure in assembling my own collection. And even when I was short of money, I just loved browsing the shelves!
In the days before book blogs and Goodreads, I discovered most of my new books not through reviews or recommendations but by picking up books at random in bookshops, a process I wrote about years ago in a post on lucky dip reading.
Recently, though, I’ve been missing bookshops. Like the rest of the world, I’ve been hampered by Covid-19 in the last couple of years, but on top of that, I’ve been living in non-English-speaking countries for most of the past decade. I don’t speak the local languages well enough to read whole books, and the English-language sections tend to be small and limited. On top of that, I spent five years travelling full-time, so I had to keep my luggage very minimal.
So, by necessity, I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks, even though I don’t enjoy the experience.
Now, though, I’m in Barbados for a few months, and there’s a second-hand bookshop within walking distance—and, even better, I can sell the books back to them for half the purchase price. So if I like them, I’ll take them back to Europe with me, but if not, I don’t have to weigh down my suitcase.
So there was no reason not to stock up:
I don’t know most of these books. Snow is the only one I’d actually been planning to read one day. Caryl Phillips is an author I know of and want to try, but the other three are true “lucky dip” reads. We’ll see how they work out…
But whatever the books are like, it was great to be in a bookshop again. The shop is next to a long strip of great beaches, so most of it was devoted to classic “beach reads”: romances, thrillers and the like. Not really my thing. But there was a shelf for Caribbean literature, and another one for “Prize-winning novels”, which was mostly European and American literary fiction. So I’ll probably pay them another visit or two while I’m here.
Just browsing the shelves, picking up books at random, reading back covers and ruffling through the pages was a true joy. I’ve always loved the feeling of being surrounded by shelves full of books, something that’s impossible to replicate in the digital world. When my Kindle is full of ebooks, I feel nothing but a general sense of irritation and being overwhelmed. When I have 20 tabs open in my internet browser, it’s even worse. But when I’m surrounded by hundreds of books neatly stacked on shelves, I feel the thrill of all the stories and knowledge contained within those covers.
I’ve written more about bookshops vs buying online in the past if you’re interested. For now, though, I’d love to hear if you’ve been able to get to bookshops and/or libraries recently. If so, what did you pick up? Or has the pandemic forced you into buying online?