I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about books and bookstores and how they’ve influenced my life. I was a young adult at a time when publishing and bookstores, book tours, and author readings were glamorous and how thrilling it was to learn that a bookstore like Books on Bastion in Nanaimo, BC had the brazen good guts to invite big and not so big authors to its little town to share the beautiful world of stories and ideas. How this was a time that being in a room with people, listening to an author speak or read was thrilling. Because at its essence the world of ideas has the capacity to change your life, your mind, introduce you to impossibly exotic cultures, people, thoughts, and propositions. And how lucky we are to live in place where we can openly celebrate these things.
Once upon a time I worked at a place called Arsenal Pulp Press – an LGBT press with a knack for alternative cookbooks and other incredibly rich books. Books whose ideas helped break down barriers, which when you read some of their resurrected classics, made you thankful to live on the shoulders of others who have fought for the freedoms we take for granted. And living in a country where we have a conservative government with a penchant for censorship, secrecy, muzzling of ideas, lack of support for the arts, I always worry what’s next on the agenda.
The world of ideas, of books, of people talking to people, the notion of the salon, where we enrich and enliven each other through this vigorous and emboldened exchange is important. Does it require a bookstore? Can it be replaced by the Amazon’s of the world? I don’t think so.
Why? Because not everything in life is intentional. And not everything is solved by an algorithm that tells you that if you like this, you’ll also like this. Walking into a bookstore like Elliott Bay or Duthies (now closed or Blackberry Books – also closed or Book Warehouse – also closed) and meeting someone who has devoted their life to the world of books, who knows writers and genres, who can excitedly tell you that this book is amazing, this one was more like this, than like that, this book changed my life. The potential is enormous. The world of ideas excitedly passed on from one person to another is invaluable. The exchange, person to person is vital.
There is no online bookstore that can replace a conversation between people. There is no online bookstores and big box bookstore (Costco) that can replace the wealth of knowledge of people who have worked in a venerable profession for years, passionately acquiring that deep seated knowledge of culture and literature that is vital to a healthy democratic society.
Those are my thoughts on books for today. Support your local bookstore if you still have one. The world of ideas is not something we should lose.