A letter to booksellers during Independent Bookshop Week

Dear bookseller,

I’m sorry. It shouldn’t take Independent Bookshop Week for me to tell you how I feel about you. But, like Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday, sometimes we need a reminder to tell certain people in our lives just how important they are. 

Like every writer I know, I am first and foremost a reader. I read Enid Blyton by torchlight under the bedsheets, I walked to school with Judy Blume, and devoured Jilly Cooper when I should have been revising. I read at the table; in front of the television; and while doing chores, much to my mother’s despair.

The bookshops in my life have been many and varied. They have been spread over four floors, and they have been so tiny they barely had room for customers. They have sold new books and second-hand books; rare books and pile-em-high books. They have had many employees, and they have had just one; but all with one thing in common – a passion for books. 

I love watching a bookseller when a customer asks them to recommend a book. Their eyes light up, words tumbling out as they lead the way to the back of the shop: "Absolutely her best yet… should have won the Booker, in my view…". 

Who needs algorithms, when you have booksellers? 

At regular intervals in my life I’ve suffered from reader’s block. Unable to settle into any book, of any genre, I’ve found the only cure to be a visit to a bookshop. I let myself wander, drawn by the covers; the groupings of books I hadn’t expected to find together; the handwritten cards that tell me what you loved about the stories. I pick up fiction, memoir, a funny book I know will end up in my loo. I browse without a map, without a destination, and it always, always, cures me. 

I cannot finish this letter without thanking you for the support you give to writers. It makes sense, I suppose (bookshops would be empty places without books, after all), but you are so unfailingly lovely to us. I wrote most of my debut novel in an independent bookshop, expecting derision when I admitted what I was doing. Instead I was met with how brilliant! I look forward to hosting your launch party. And they did. 

Thank you, dear booksellers, in independent shops both large and small, for everything you do. Both as a reader, and as a writer, I am truly grateful.

Happy Independent Bookshop Week,
 
Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh's next novel, After the End, will be published by Sphere on 25th June 2019.