Sarah Elton: My Coming of Age with Books and Bookstores

Toronto wasn’t sophisticated like it is today, when I was growing up downtown. You couldn’t get espresso without knowing where to go to find it, the hip places to hang out weren’t clustered together like they are now and a good loaf of bread was rare. But there were bookstores. Oh, were there bookstores. I can track my coming of age by the books I bought, and where.

When I was in elementary school, there was Edwards Books at Sherbourne and Bloor. Today, my kids enjoy the pop-up dollhouse book I bought there one Boxing Day sale when I was nine. I was venturing out to its other location, west along Bloor at Avenue Road, when I was into Can Lit classics—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Margaret Laurence. As a teenager, I made aspirational purchases at Britnells’ bookstore at Yonge and Bloor (it’s now a Starbucks), such as a Shakespeare compendium. Then in university, I’d spend hours ogling the tables at Book City in the Annex and then splurging on some non-fiction hardcover. By the time I got my first journalism job, I’d discovered Pages on Queen.

Toronto has changed a lot since then. For one, we don’t have the same choice of bookstores anymore. While I really appreciate that I can buy a dozen different leavened breads and fancy coffees, the city loses out when we don’t have the same choice in bookstores. There is something magical about a small shop run by people who love books as much as I do.

That’s why I’ll be celebrating independent bookstores on Authors for Indies Day on April 30th.

© 2016 Sarah Elton

Sarah Elton is the bestselling author of Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet, Locavore and, for young people, Starting from Scratch: What you should know about food and cooking. Her new kids book that considers whether to eat meat – or not – will be published next year by Owl Kids Books.