To me, there are two non-negotiable ingredients required of any neighbourhood or town I would willingly live in: a decent pub and an independent bookstore. The former you probably instantly understand, but why a bookstore? Can’t you order all that stuff online these days?
The thing is, a good bookstore offers more than the goods within its walls. It anchors a place through its civility, the printed texts displayed in its window a signal that you will find brothers and sisters hereabouts whom you might befriend, nod the secret readers’ nod as you pass, a quiet declaration that here the yahoos are resisted.
Here’s another important thing about pubs and bookstores: buying a novel at your local indie versus ordering it online is like having a pint at the pub versus drinking alone in your basement. It’s not the same feeling. And I don’t mean that in the nostalgic sense that independent bookstores transport you to some idealized, Luddite past where people stood around discussing Important Literary Works on every street corner. I mean that buying a book at a real bookstore physically engages you with the community of reading. Being around others browsing the shelves or asking questions of the staff or sneaking peeks between the covers is like being part of a family, however loosely constructed, however wildly diverse in composition and purpose and taste.
For me, in this increasingly atomized world we’ve built for ourselves, buying a book in a bookstore grounds me the same way as watching the Leafs lose on the screen over the bar. It’s something I need.
So let’s raise a glass – and a book – to our indies!
(c) 2016 Andrew Pyper
Andrew Pyper is the winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and author of seven bestselling novels, most recently The Damned and The Demonologist, both of which are in development for feature film. His previous books include The Killing Circle (a New York Times Crime Novel of the Year) and Lost Girls (a New York Times Notable Book). He lives in Toronto.