Why bookshops are important by Tilly Bagshawe

  • Posted 07/10/2017

Why bookshops are important by Tilly Bagshawe

Part of the appeal for me may be a nostalgic, romantic, whimsical attachment to the bookshops of my childhood.  Mr Tobenheim’s second hand bookshop in Burford in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a favourite haunt of mine and my sister’s, and the place where we bought all our bright red, hardback Just William books.   I remember it as a ramshackle maze of dust and intrigue, a magical place where one could get lost for hours, if not days, and where no one ever expected you to buy anything (even though we invariably did.)  It helped that Mr Tobenheim also sold little stone animals for the garden, and that he sometimes gave away damaged Blue Peter annuals for free. 
I remember our excitement when my sister was first published in a poetry anthology in her teens, and our local bookshop in Wadhurst stocked the book (which also featured a dreadful accompanying painting of Boudicca by me.)  Then, as now, the bookshop was part of our community, supporting us as local budding writers, and readers.  On a recent trip home to Sussex, I found myself wandering into an idyllic and enticing bookshop in Alfriston, selling both antiquarian and new books, and I was blown away by the level of thought and care that had gone in to both encouraging readers and supporting writers.   Every title being promoted had been carefully chosen, from the most visibly commercial to the eye-wateringly esoteric.   But the point was, this place exuded a sense of welcome.  A sense of encouragement, and joy, a celebration of the written word and its ability to surprise us and lift us up and inspire us.  These are things that simply cannot be replicated on Amazon Prime. 
For me, bookshops are important not so much for any business or economic reason, although a case could certainly be made for both.  They’re important because they perpetuate and enhance the idea of books as a form of communication, as a meaningful, human interaction.  I write so people will read.  I read, because someone had something they wanted to say to me.  Books are personal.  The best bookshops understand that and celebrate it, in a way that online retailers never can.  

Grayson Perry

'Pop in to your local bookshop. Book people are nice people and bookshops have become more than a place to buy books. In many small communities they are a valuable social hub for like-minded folks. But don't forget to buy a book too!'