With due homage to Irvine Welsh, this week—with high street bookshops in Ireland open, and shops due to open from Monday in England and Northern Ireland, and shortly thereafter in Scotland and Wales—I say #ChooseBookshops. Choose the high street. Choose a book. Preferably, at this time, choose a printed one, from a bookseller. Choose gloves too, and hand sanitiser. Choose not to sneeze. Choose a mask.
Choose safe shopping, or choose to click and collect. Choose to wait your turn, choose while in a line. Choose a bookseller recommendation or choose to ask. Choose a book published in April or May, which may not have had the life that was meant for it. Choose a début. Or not. Choose full price (where you can); choose not to be led by discount (if you can). Read differently, think afresh. Choose to be surprised; choose to be challenged.
Choose reading. Choose sitting in your chair absorbing something mind-expanding that can take you anywhere, in any era, with anyone. Choose to lose yourself (and the kids). In fact, choose to switch off your TV (games console, iPad, mobile et al) and do something less boring instead. I mean, a book. Chosen from a bookshop, of course.
Choose empathy; learn how it is to be another person, walk in their shoes to feel their joy, loves and pain. Choose information and education; the world is not fixed. Choose to learn and understand. Choose to resist or not, but choose. Choose to live in the now, and examine the past. Choose to change.
Choose enjoyment; read for pleasure, read for fun, read aloud (even if you don’t have children). Choose a book to pass on; go on, leave it out for others to discover, loan it or gift it. Read alone (or not) but share widely, and without embarrassment. Choose to sniff it; crunch the pages, break that spine, fold down the edges. Choose to shelve it. Choose to keep the memory of it. Choose to talk about it.
Choose books and the people who write them, sell them, loan them and publish them. Choose today’s hits from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Bernardine Evaristo, Candice Brathwaite, Candice Carty-Williams and Layla Saad. Or choose others. Your choice. But the choice matters.
Choose #InclusiveIndies too, and other small presses, and books from all sides. Choose bigger publishers too, of course. Choose the brands, the big books and the winners. Choose to be advised, not told. But choose widely and generously. Choose more than one, or two, or more. At least. For starters. And from a bookshop (indie or chain). They have bags.
Choose from the backlist, or from those face out. Choose something new today, or order in for tomorrow. Choose too the unpredictable; choose translated tales; the peculiar; or queer stories; choose from what you don’t know; choose those not represented in the canon, or front of store; choose to dig deeper; choose to be made to feel uncomfortable. Choose for you, but also with others in mind. Choose to let the words in. Choose hope. You’ll find that in a bookshop, too.
Mostly, choose bookshops. Especially from Monday. And the day after.