So as I have mentioned already, today is the day of the Books Are My Bag initiative which I am a big fan of. I thought it would be nice to do something book shop themed today and a post the lovely Kerry Hudson had written for me for Independent Bookshop Week (which I had planned to post back then but couldn’t as Gran was so poorly) and her book launch seemed perfect. So I will hand over to the lovely Kerry who also loves an Indie book shop as much as I do…
It was complete coincidence that the paperback of my debut novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, came out during Independent Bookshop Week but it’s very fitting that it did. For the last year Tony Hogan has found its way into people’s hands largely thanks to word of mouth and personal recommendations. Thanks to Indies like Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace and Dulwich Books in…um…Dulwich, reading the book, loving it, blogging about it and hand-selling copies. Yes, getting buy-in from the chains and wholesalers, the Goliaths, is important but I think we all know and understand the power that the Indie’s, the Davids of the bookselling world, have.
That is why, to launch my paperback, I cycled around the capital. On a tiny red bike. On a day hotter than the surface of the sun. Delivering 80’s goodybags filled with gliders, Sherbet Dib-Dabs, Wham Bars and Vimto lollypops to some of London’s finest Independent Bookshops.
I began my tour close to home at Broadway Books. Broadway Books is right by Regent’s Canal and is great for cult classics and local author books and, vitally, have one of the best fish and chip shops in East London a few doors up. If anyone can tell me what is nicer than sitting by a canal, eating a bag of chips and reading a great book I’ll call them a liar.
Next a cycled off to Pages of Hackney, located in hyper-hip Clapton they have a great stock of new books upstairs and a selection of secondhand books, a comfy sofa and (sometimes) a very cute pug downstairs. My next hop took me to chic Exmouth Market and Tales of Clarkenwell, a calm, stylish indie where Peter told me that they’re opening a Toronto branch soon, or maybe that they already have…I was a little sun-addled at that point. To be honest.
It was time to head South, first to Village Books in Dulwich. On the way I ask directions from a local who beams at me ‘that’s an amazing bookshop’ and it is indeed. As I sign books Kate, a bookseller who clearly loves her job, tells me how each of the booksellers have customers who appreciate their personal taste and so come to them specifically for recommendations. Dulwich is very pretty and just as well because I get hopelessly lost making it to my next destination, Dulwich Books. They’re expecting me, and have busted out the leg-warmers and eighties tunes in preparation. Dulwich Books and their very active bookgroup were some of the earliest Tony Hogan…supporters and it’s amazing to be able to say thank you to them in person.
I resist the the lure of their kids section beanbags, buy myself an ice-cream up the road and carry on my way to…Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace. I love what Jonathan and Justine, who’ve been trading for twelve years, have done with the shop. So much care has been taken with the curation of the collection of books, they have regular author talks and Jonathan runs a subscription scheme ‘Flight Club’ where subscribers are sent a mystery book that Jonathan feels people will especially enjoy. I leave Jonathan with the bag of sweets and Lloyd Cole crooning sweetly to his customers and hop on the tube down to my final stop, Clapham Books. Clapham Books has the most incredible shop interior with a kind-of-glass-pagoda-ceiling (go see it, you’ll know what I mean). As we had a chatter they told me they’ve been doing two book events a week for a while and I confess to them which well known author scares the pants off me…nope, my lips are sealed! I leave them saying I’m ‘off for a giant beer’.
That day I only visited a fraction of the amazing Independent Bookshops in London and if you consider how many more there are across the UK it is hugely heartening. So what’s so special about Indies? What I find special is that every single shop is as unique as their owner and staff and that they are run and staffed by people with a huge passion for getting books to readers, but they can only continue if we, the book buying punters, put our hands in our pockets and support them.
These bookshops are doing something incredible in the current climate. They are striving, staying creative, loving books and reading, hand-selling debuts like mine, that otherwise nobody would know about, and staying in business where many other businesses couldn’t. Indie bookshops, clever hardworking booksellers, I salute you!
Here, here. I couldn’t put it better myself – hence why I am off to mine today for Books Are My Bag and seeing what new books might end up in my bag. A big big, in fact a HUGE, thanks to Kerry for doing the post today, especially now she is on the path to stardom both being short listed for the Polari First Book Prize and also winning the debut novel category for the Scottish Book Awards (which makes her eligible to be the overall winner if the general public vote her to be, which I think they should here from October the 1st – put it in your diaries) when she is the next Mantel we will remember these days fondly.