My relationship with bookshops is a long and not particularly complicated one. They are, effectively, my mistress. I give them all my money, willingly. They are on the highest of pedestals in my head. I feel a new city is unfriendly until I’ve figured out the closest and friendliest book palace, and by extension, drawn my conclusions on that city’s attitude to books and reading. Recently I went to Sonoma, and my fondest memory isn’t wandering round the gorgeous Spanish mission, or taking my time over an excellent wine tasting session, but the happy half-hour I spent in the delightful Reader’s Books, followed by lunch at the Italian restaurant over the road, sharing my duck ragu pasta with my new-old copy of The Grapes of Wrath.
I run to bookshops when I’m happy, sure, but more particularly when I’m sad, or hurt, or angry, in need of being soothed, calmed, returned to myself. I would call it straightforward retail therapy, but I don’t always have to buy the books in question (although more often than not I do, no doubt to the utter despair of my bank manager).
Which brings us to this. I’ve been having a bit of a tough time at work lately. Internal politics, mainly, and no doubt some overreaction on my part, but I’ve found it all pretty hard to escape from. A couple of weekends ago, I stayed in all day on Saturday, and then on Sunday thought that my mood had improved sufficiently for me to trust myself with a coffee at my local Waterstone’s. Sadly, my mood hadn’t improved quite as much as I thought, and so this happened:
And then the following weekend, things being not that much improved, I went to a different coffeehouse, in a different bookshop, in a different town, and somehow emerged with these:
You’ll notice this time that the books are resting on a ‘Books are my Bag’ bag. The bookseller, ringing up my purchases, asked whether I wanted one. ‘They’re free…and it would seem to be appropriate.’ Hmm. If even your bookshop comments on your buying habits, then it may be time to admit that you have a problem.
And so, a new plan. I am no longer allowed to go to bookshops (or onto Amazon, for that matter) when in a state of heightened emotion or distress. I have to at least try to stick to this, for a while at any rate, or run the risk of being the first person ever to be crushed to death by their own TBR pile.
You don’t need to worry too much about the financial health of the country’s bookshops just yet, though. Knowing myself as I do, I give it a week.