‘The bookshop around the corner‘, a blog run by the book – and bookshop – lover, Erica (@BookshopBlogger), has featured Bookmarks, London’s independent socialist bookshop this week.
She embarked on the adventure on the premise that ‘[a]s it’s no secret I’m a bit of a fan of bookshops, I decided the best way to experience the launch of the Books Are My Bag campaign was to take in a couple of places I wouldn’t necessarily have visited on an ordinary bookshopping trip.’
And so I choose two opposites, bookshops which at first glance appear to be at different ends of the social spectrum and ones I’d not rated particularly highly on my ‘expect to fit right in the moment you step through the door’ scale. Not because I wasn’t interested – their concepts fascinated me – but if any bookshop was to live up to the intimidating persona I’d applied to them back when I was a young teenager one of these was bound to be it.
The first of the two bookshops is first-edition haven Goldsboro Books – you can read more here. We’ve reproduced an extract from her experience with Bookmarks below:
As someone who feels very strongly about the vote but doesn’t choose where to cast it until the day of whatever election is taking place, I’d known that while I wouldn’t be completely lost here I could potentially stand out as not being socially aware enough.
Would I walk into the shop and have my ignorance rubbed in my face as I failed to register knowledge of the issues? Would I even find a book I could realistically buy as subjects beyond my comprehension (or even sphere of knowledge) lined the shelves? The answers regarding my understanding are probably both yes and no, but after an initial moment of awe I soon found myself on a mini educational tour.
With the books organised by theme and geography I took a journey around the world, wandering past the spines, picking up the names of inspirational people, horrific events, revolutions, campaigns and everything in between. There was even a suitably selected fiction area, filled with books to entertain while also making you think. However, instead of loitering in the relative safety of fiction I found myself drawn to the Middle East, an area that often makes headline news but is rarely explained to any satisfactory level in the allotted television time segment.
And so I picked up Cairo, My City, Our Revolution by Ahdaf Soueif, a fiction author who here retells her personal account of being part of the Arab Spring. As I read in the shop I found myself caught up by her determination to make a difference and I’m sure it will be a fascinating and educational experience.
In fact, so engrossed had I been in my exploration of the issues that it wasn’t until I got to the till that I noticed the total absence of BAMB decoration due to a technical hitch. Not one to let an absence of free stuff put me off the good fight I still wanted my book, and was rewarded for my decision when later in the day the bookshop contacted me to let me know the tote bags had arrived and they’d keep one aside for me.
While all bookshops help broaden the mind, Bookmarks goes above and beyond to highlight issues and educate, but not in a way that alienates the everyman. With more time I could happily spend a good few hours in the shop on a journey of self-education, safe in the knowledge I’d be welcomed and later leave with books that would take me on journeys to very different – but very real – worlds.
To read more of Erica’s blog, click here. If you’re interested in finding out where your own local independent bookshop might be, click the big red arrow on the ride sidebar.