Monday, 22 June 2015

The Joy of Bookshops (#IBW2015)


I love a good bookshop. To me there are few pleasures comparable to browsing shelves filled with rows of books, hundreds of possible adventures waiting within their pages. And if that sounds a bit corny and romantic, it's meant to. Bookshops are romantic and, to a book lover, they have perpetual allure. Put me in a city or town and, soon enough, I'll find my way to a bookshop. If said bookshop happens to also serve tea and cake, that's the rest of the afternoon sorted right there. A good bookshop is like a little bit of heaven on earth and it's time we showed them some love. 

In the age of the internet, where the likes of Amazon and Book Depository lure consumers with their cheap deals; and of supermarket book sections, which can use their buying power to undercut high-street bookshops on the biggest-selling titles; the dedicated bookshop can seem like a dying breed. Yet in spite of the problems of increasing competition, the rise of e-books and increasing high street rents, many excellent independent bookshops are thriving.

Take the excellent Booka Bookshop & Cafe in Oswestry, Shropshire. Booka, which opened in 2009 and has been going from strength to strength ever since, is a wonderful bookshop. The large picture windows are always decorated with enticing displays and information about upcoming events. Inside, the shop is light and airy with cosy cushioned benches, chic cafe tables and piles and piles of books all nestled on white painted shelves. There's always a display table of staff picks - one of my favourite things as booksellers can always be relied upon to make excellent recommendations - and of recently released titles, many of which are often signed as Booka run regular author signings and events. So although it's over an hour away, I find reasons to visit Booka as often as possible. 

I had an excellent excuse to visit Booka on the weekend just gone as it was the start of Independent Bookshop Week (IBW), which runs from 20 - 27 June 2015 and aims to celebrate indie bookshops throughout the UK. This year, in addition to the readings and events organised by the bookshops themselves, the organisers are encouraging people to pop to their local indie bookshop and #giveabook- buy a book for someone special in you life. 

For my #giveabook, I wanted to get a birthday present to send to my cousin Jay in Japan and was also after a Fathers Day gift. Booka duly provided the goods on both counts. I won't disclose the birthday gift lest the recipient read this post (it's not his birthday until the end of the month!) however I found a beautiful Candlestick Press poetry pamphlet for my Dad featuring collected poems from Wales, a country of which we are both very fond. I also picked up a copy of Angela Readman's Costa Short Story Award winning collection 'Don't Try This At Home' for myself - IBW2015 might be about #giveabook but it's not going to stop me adding to my own collection!

Independent Book Week is also running the second IBW bookshop crawl this coming Saturday (27 June) which encourages book lovers to take a road trip of local indies and to blog, tweet or post about it during the day. Sadly my work rota prevents me from taking part in the #bookshopcrawl but I am hoping to finally pay another visit to wonderful local independent, The Book Barge which is (usually) moored in Barton-Under Needwood, Staffordshire, at some point next weekend. Yes, that's right, it's a bookshop on a canal boat. And it has a resident bookshop rabbit. Do I need to say any more or shall we just say The Book Barge is cool and leave it at that!? 

So get out there this week and show your local indies some love. Whether you simply pop in on your lunch break or make an afternoon of it and have some tea and cake whilst you're there, find your local independent bookshop and go enjoy it. Browse the shelves, chat to the booksellers, bask in the quiet companionship of fellow book lovers. And then get involved in the conversation and tell everyone else all about it! You can follow  the organisers of IBW2015 on Twitter @booksaremybag and @IndieBound_UK and can tweet using the hashtags #giveabook #IBW2015 and #bookshopcrawl throughout the week. As always, I'd love to hear about your adventures with books so tweet me @amyinstaffs to tell me about your favourite bookshops and your #giveabook choices.

Until next time folks, Happy Reading! 


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