Friday, February 14, 2014

Why I Love....Bookshops

My children have grown up now. I don’t miss the years of head-splitting squabbling, nor the constant interruptions when I was trying to write, but I do miss the hours we used to while away in bookshops when they were younger.
Introducing children to books is like telling a small kid an old joke and basking in their amazement at how clever and funny you are. Bookshops are better than magic. They are the gateway to everything.
Books were the one thing my children were permitted to buy with wild abandon. Trust me – it worked out a lot cheaper in the long run than all the eye-watering library fines and missing-in-action books I had to replace over the years. We spent hours in our local bookshops, and we never came away disappointed.
Perhaps inevitably, the elder of the two recently bought a Kindle (from a high street bookshop which struck me as sort of ironic). She broke the news to me gently over a glass of wine. I watched her with it on holiday recently, and I can see that her sister is vaguely interested, although she, like me, declares herself a reading Luddite, and says she doesn’t want to read a book that “hasn’t got a cover”. That made a lot of sense to me.
The internet has ripped the element of adventure out of buying books. There is no quiet wandering, picking things up, finding yourself lost in a random paragraph, discovering new writers and revisiting old favourites, and where’s the joy in that?
I can’t even begin to count the books I would have missed out on had I not been a bookshop addict – a trait that I have determinedly passed down the line. There is nothing compares with the bookshop experience, the way time slows down, the instant gratification of finding something interesting and walking out with a rustling carrier bag.
Both my daughters, now in their twenties, have grown into avid readers, although their taste in books couldn’t be farther apart. I know that they will be readers for life and that, should they go on to have children of their own, they too will discover the magic that can only be found in a bookshop.

Born to an Indian mother and an English jazz musician father, Alison McQueen grew up in London. After a convent education, Alison worked in advertising for twenty years before retiring to write full time. In 2006 she was selected from an impressive longlist to join The Writer’s Circle, a group of 8 top writers to be groomed by the UK film industry as the new generation of British screenwriters. She has written two novels, UNDER THE JEWELED SKY and THE SECRET CHILDREN, which was inspired by her life.  Alison lives in a small English village with her husband and two daughters.


  1. Oh I LOVE bookshops too! If I ever get some down time to myself (without husband or son with me) I love to just spend hours walking around, pulling books out to read the covers, creating a pile I want to take home with me. Unfortunately my husband and son are not big readers so they get bored if I take them along :). So it is just my own little joy that I will always have.

  2. This sounds so familiar. We spent so much time in various bookstores when my kids were little- and even not so little, and rarely left the store without purchasing something. Every family vacation included at least one stop in a bookstore to replenish the reading material because long car and/or plane rides meant we all ran through what we had packed. Plus, I wanted to browse. e-books are convenient and make luggage lighter, but they'll never replace the joy of browsing a bookstore.

  3. I browse book blogs the way I used to browse bookstores--reading or skimming reviews, looking at covers, chatting about whether something is good or not and why. I am a reading Luddite but a new age procurer of books. :)