To celebrate the publication of How to Find Love in a Book Shop as well as Bookshop Day on 8th October, bestselling author Veronica Henry popped in to visit us and tell us about her love for bookshops.
I was born a bookworm. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read: it was almost like breathing to me. A sixth sense. My main aim in life was to scuttle away and curl up with a book: in my bedroom, under a tree, in the bath. The only place I couldn’t read was in the car, because it made me feel sick, so journeys to me were a waste of valuable time.
I didn’t really have any other interests. I didn’t need any, because my fictional worlds took me to all the places I needed to go and I experienced everything vicariously. All I wanted for my birthday or Christmas was books. And the only place I ever wanted to go was the local book shop, wherever we happened to be living (I was an army brat, so we moved every two years. Book shops were comfortingly the same wherever we lived).
Book shops are a gateway to another world. Enter a book shop, and you never know where you might end up, or who with. There is nothing like the tingle of expectation as you step over the threshold. Time spent in a book shop is never wasted, as you run your finger along the spines of potential new paramours: who might your latest passion be?
The best book shops mix the comfortingly familiar with the tantalisingly new, juxtaposing old favourites with the latest discoveries. They make it easy for you to take risks. A good bookseller will understand your tastes and lead you into pastures new. It’s never a risk. Books make us who we are.
Yet there was a time, not so long ago, when the book shop was in danger of disappearing from our high street. The digital threat was a real one as people rushed to download the latest reads onto their shiny new devices. Book shops began closing at an alarming rate, rather like pubs. Those in the know predicated that books would disappear altogether: there was no need for them. They were outmoded and took up too much space.
Thankfully, there has been a backlash. The love of books as tangible, three-dimensional objects that are to be cherished has won the day, and book shops are on the rise again. Bookselling is still a challenge, but all you booksellers are rising to that challenge by making your emporiums fresher, brighter and more alluring places to be. You open coffee shops, even cocktail bars, put on events, have visits from authors, hold monthly bookclubs, and are more often than not the driving force behind local literary festivals.
Whenever I do a talk, I ask the audience which they prefer: real books or e-books. The vote has come down firmly in favour of the real book of late. People love the weight of a real book in their hands, the feel of the pages, even the smell …