In defence of bookstores

Here’s a bourgeois inner-city faux-boh statement for you: The death of bookstores is another win for capitalism.

Via Womenreading.tumblr
Via WomenReading.tumblr

Sounds like something people in fisherman pants said in the uni refectory back in 1993. But actually New York writer Adam Gopnik did. He argues that capitalism grew up with smaller, intimate institutions existing alongside – cafes, bookstores, etc – to keep things in check and keep humans connected to true progress.

“These intermediate institutions were where the real work of eighteenth-century mind-making got done. Enlightenment happened more often in a café than a classroom. It still does.”

“Markets don’t make men free; free men (and women) have to have the confidence to accept the instability that markets make.”

And confidence… where do we get this? I truly believe we get it from quiet moments where we get closer to ourselves. Where we get deliberate and certain.

There are two bookshops near my place where I go and have a pot of tea and read. I do the same at McNally Jackson in New York when I’m there.

Sometimes I read my own book, sometimes books on the nearby shelves that grab me. I give myself an hour or two. It’s an outing. A thing to do. I go at night when other people watch series on Netflix and eat Tim Tams. It’s a serene feeling, to walk or ride home around 9pm having simply meandered. Unfurled. I believe my type are called “book sniffers”.

“It is rarely the book you came to seek, but the book next to that book, which changes your mind and heart.”

Very true. Aimless browsing serves the same purpose as the flanneur. It’s about space.

Are you a book sniffer?


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