In celebration of Independent Bookshop Week, we asked our wonderful authors what their favourite bookshop is and why they support independent bookshops.
Birmingham, where I live is a fine place, but rather short of independent booksellers! So I mostly use its libraries and buy a lot of books from the Oxfam bookshops in Moseley and Harborne. Now that lockdown is lifting, I can travel to other cities and towns, revisiting all sorts of independent and/or alternative and/or radical bookshops. I don’t get to Nottingham’s Five Leaves Bookshop often enough, but they do a splendid job when it comes to organising events and creating a community of readers and writers.
I love being in bookshops. I love the smell and the atmosphere of them, and I love the fact that a really good bookshop is somehow timeless – not old fashioned or fusty but rather able to transcend the here and now in the same way a good book does. My local favourite independent bookshop is City Books in Hove for this very reason: it isn’t fancy or state of the art; there isn’t a coffee shop or even space for events; it is small and perhaps a little bit cramped but it’s a proper bookshop – well stocked, eclectic, unpretentious, with attentive, knowledgeable staff and passionate, thoughtful owners who embed themselves in the heart of the lively community of writers and readers in Brighton & Hove. Paul and Inge know what they are doing and clearly love what they do – they go out of the way to support local authors, organise readings off site and are often found alongside members their small team cheerfully running bookstalls piled high with well curated titles at all kinds of booky events across town and beyond. City Books is a great bookshop and Hove wouldn’t be the same without it.
Indie bookshops offer a human component that massive faceless online retailers can’t replicate. I have yet to meet a bookseller who isn’t a bibliophile and as an author this means a lot as it makes me feel my work is valued. As a reader, I feel part of a community in an indie bookshop – I am with like-minded people and that’s always a nice feeling. Furthermore, indie bookshops pay their taxes, supporting the NHS, education and other important things that keep society going – this is important to me.
C D Rose
There are many bookshops across the world which I love, each one with its own unique qualities. Whenever I am in East Anglia, I always try to visit the Book Hive in Norwich. It’s a tiny place, winding over two floors and four rooms, with an angular staircase often piled with books. It doesn’t stock obvious titles, but mostly single copies of books which manage to seem uniquely interesting. Owner Henry Layte is a regular presence, and all the booksellers there are as charming and well-informed as the shop itself.
I have recently moved back to the North, and have been delighted to find Hebden Bridge’s The Book Case less than five minutes walk from where I now live. It’s been closed for a while, but now it’s open again, I’m looking forward to finding what it holds.
Independent bookshops are as valuable as independent publishers, and independent writers. Each play their part in the literary ecosystem, of keeping words, and stories, and books alive in a world which would be so much the less without them.
I must admit I haven’t shopped in an actual bookshop for well over a year now, but my favourite indie would be Sevenoaks Bookshop in Kent, who I discovered during the pandemic. I haven’t actually been there but I’ve worked with Fleur and her team sourcing and providing books for book events I’ve hosted through my job at Black Ballad and I love their passion and it’s been great to see them go from strength to strength even during a challenging time.
I think Indie bookshops are communities in and of themselves, and it’s important to maintain these links and ideas of community even as things go more digital. With more Indies now also selling online, supporting them and the work they do is easier than ever!
Lucie McKnight Hardy
Ledbury Books and Maps – in the Herefordshire market town of the same name – is a gem of a bookshop. It has been going for more than thirty years, and for the last ten has had Lindsay Jackson at the helm. Lindsay is a brilliant bookseller and she and her team are always an enthusiastic source of advice and recommendations (and gossip!). It’s a friendly and welcoming place that is always well-stocked. It’s also the official bookseller for the Ledbury Poetry Festival, which means that Lindsay was able to sneak a copy of my novel to Margaret Atwood when she was in town a couple of years ago. I often wonder if she read it.
Independent bookshops bring something special to the high street – colour and vibrancy and verve. The people running them and working in them are hugely knowledgeable, with a passion for books and reading. Visiting an independent bookshop to buy a book makes an otherwise perfunctory transaction an utter pleasure.
By Khadisha Thomas