The Magic of Bookstores
Book lovers mourn every time a bookstore closes its doors, whether it was part of a retail chain or an independent shop. It was a sad day for many people when the Chapters location at the Bayview Village Shopping Centre shut down at the end of 2017, after almost two decades serving the community. A new Indigo Books & Music location is expected to open this summer or early fall at Fairview Mall, but Chapters Bayview will be missed.
Personally speaking, that Chapters was where I first experienced one of the most visceral thrills of librarianship: walking into a bookstore and buying a cartload of paperbacks! The staff members were so helpful and patient whenever a gathering of librarians (collectively called a catalogue of librarians) descended upon their workplace. Back in the day, book shopping sprees were held at the World's Biggest Bookstore, another location that became Toronto history, this one in 2014. You can see the inside of the store in this 1980 photo, featuring Jack Cole, the president of the Coles bookstore chain. When it opened, the store had 1.5 million books on 17 miles of shelves.
Bookstores are places of magic: the emporium of shiny bestsellers, the specialty bookstore with a unique collection, the secondhand shop filled with hidden gems and vellichor (in his collection of invented words, John Koenig defines vellichor as "the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time"). Bookstores are places you linger, sampling a page or a chapter, imagining how that gorgeous cover or velvety cloth-bound spine would look on your bookshelf or nightstand. There are stacks upon stacks of books written about bookstores, those wonderful sites of stories and discovery and adventure. Here is a short selection:
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
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Fall in love with this 1970 epistolary novel about the evolving relationship of a New York writer and her pen pal, a London bookseller.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
A widow faces opposition when she opens a bookstore in a seaside town. Happily ever after not guaranteed.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
When a customer commits suicide in her bookstore, Lydia is drawn into a mystery entangled with her own past.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Clay takes a job at the titular store and stumbles upon a conspiracy of codes and secret societies.
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Bookmobiles have a certain charm, as you'll find out when you board a travelling book wagon in this 1917 novella, and follow the characters into the sequel, The Haunted Bookshop.
Explore the legacy of this legendary bookstore in this collection of essays and poetry from writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin and Jeanette Winterson, accompanied by photos and other archival pieces.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Another heartwarming tale in the oddly specific sub-genre where grumpy booksellers with sad pasts are rescued through bibliophilia.
Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
Working at a fictional Canadian big box bookstore quickly escalates to anarchy and multiple felonies in this outrageous debut novel full of literary references and satirical shenanigans.
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell
"Excuse me... is this book edible?"