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Why I Love Indie Bookshops by Dervla McTiernan

Why I Love Indie Bookshops

Why I Love Indie Bookshops

by Dervla McTiernan

I grew up loving books, loving stories, though I had access to very few of them. I had three older siblings, and three younger, so when I was very small my books were dog-eared, well-loved (and by loved I mean crayoned) picture books, usually with at least a few pages missing or shredded. When I was older I mostly read my brothers’ beloved and battered paperbacks. Their taste ran largely to science fiction and fantasy, which was convenient, as so did mine. I started babysitting for the neighbours’ kids when I was eleven years old (you could do that back in the day) and I earned my first money. Five Irish pounds per night was the going rate. Even in the late eighties, that was cheap, but hey, at eleven, I didn’t have many options.

Luckily for me five pounds was also about the going rate for a paperback at the time, so suddenly I could buy my own books. And boy did I. Trips to the bookshop were not a regular occurrence (nor were babysitting gigs, unfortunately) so by the time I got to go I would usually have saved up enough for two or even three books. I bought the Davids (Gemnell and Eddings), Anne McCaffrey and Raymond Feist, Margaret Weiss and Tad Williams, and every Terry Pratchett I could get my hands on. I never spoke to a bookseller though. I didn’t think you could do that, you see. I didn’t realise it was an option. I just browsed the shelves, found a book that appealed, and brought it home.

And you know what? I did all right. No one directed my reading. I didn’t have a parent leaning over my shoulder, directing me to reading that might teach me something, or, god forbid, stretch me. I just read what I loved, and loved what I read and I built a life-long passion. So I don’t have any regrets, exactly. But I look back now and think I may have missed a trick. I could have spoken to those booksellers and maybe been introduced to books and writers even more fall-in-lovable (Phillip Pullman anyone?).

Because here’s the thing. Booksellers aren’t your high-school English teacher, and they’re not your parent. They don’t care about educating you. If you’re lucky, and you find a good one, they’re basically your best mate who loves books just as much as you do … and is always one book ahead. Talk to a bookseller and they’ll knock your socks off with their passion and knowledge and their willingness to share. Talk to a bookseller and they’ll give it to you straight, too. You won’t get publisher hype and you won’t get anonymous reviews with dodgy provenance.

So why do I love indie bookshops?  I love them because they’re filled with books, books curated by people with passion and knowledge and individuality. Books that fill me with joy and spark my imagination.

I love them because they’re home to booksellers.


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