It’s Books Are My Bag time of the year again!
Books Are My Bag (BAMB) is a nationwide campaign in the UK and Ireland, the biggest collaboration between publishers, bookstores and authors to date, to celebrate bookstores. And it is now back October 6-8, 2016 to put wonderful bookshops on spotlight!
I found out about Books are My Bag in 2014 thanks to certain someone being a BAMBassador for the campaign. Thank you, Damian, for loving books, loving bookstores, and supporting Books Are My Bag!
Books are My Bag reports “in fact, 56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop and high street bookshops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by consumers. Yet, many high street bookshops are under threat.”
First, it was the record stores… I think I was in some sort of denial as I was part of the huge crowd raiding Tower Records buying CDs from their amazing collection at 50% or more off the original price because they were closing their legendary UWS store.
Tower Records is now an online music store and there is a Raymond and Flanigan furniture store in its place on Broadway. SAD.
We felt the threat on the bookstores a bit later. Borders, a big bookstore chain in the US, went out of business first and Barnes &Noble, probably the biggest bookstore chain in the US sized down. They started with earlier closing times for all branches and then permanently closed down several of them including our favorite on 66th Street and Broadway in NYC. That location now houses a Century 21, a store that sells fancy brand clothes at affordable prices. Not that I have anything against Century 21 but bookstores constantly disappearing from the cityscape is SAD.
And, hey, I have not even mentioned independent bookstores yet. In a world, where big chain bookstores cannot survive, how come small, independent, mom and pop bookstores can make it? How can they stand against the rising rents, the popularity of e-readers and the online retailers? We all love browsing books in the bookstores, have a chocolate chip cookie and a latte, then go home, go online and buy our books online for lower prices. We are part of the problem driving those real bookstores out of business.
When I imagine a future generation that will never know the smell of a bookstore, the pleasure of feeling a book, reading its back cover and discovering a new author in a physical space where one shares her love for books with others, I feel thankful, one more time, that I was born in the 20th century. Because I spend some of my most treasured moments in bookstores — losing track of time and spending a whole day browsing and reading. My all-time favorite bookstore is a big independent bookstore in New York City, called Strand.
Their slogan is “18 miles on books. “They sell new, old, rare and even out-of-print books. It is always packed with old and young people all browsing books, talking about books and sharing the love for books together… Call me romantic, call me sentimental, and yes I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to books, the touch and the smell of a book… including a few of my favorite books as below. Hehe.
Going back to Books are My Bag: The campaign has been devised pro bono by advertising agency M&C Saatchi in collaboration with publishers including Random House, Hachette, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Bloomsbury and the Faber Alliance. The campaign has also been championed by bookstores, including chains such as Waterstones, W H Smith, Easons and independents such as Foyles, Jaffe & Neale and Mr B’s Emporium.
Books are My Bag celebrated its 2014 campaign with the release of a wonderful book called The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell: “From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, and from bookshops in barns to those in churches, The Bookshop Book explores the history of bookshops and books,reveals author favourite literary haunts and examines over two hundred weird and wonderful shops worldwide. The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world. Be sure to pick up a copy!”
So The Bookshop Book starts with the idea every bookstore has a story and takes it from there… And now… see me! I will start with the story of a bookstore and will take you to… oh, yes, Damian Lewis 🙂
Well, I am a hopeless bookworm! That’s why I always chase beautiful bookstores when I am traveling. The most beautiful bookstore I have ever been to is a 13th century Dominican church converted into a bookstore in Maastricht, The Netherlands. And I am thrilled that it is featured in an article published in The Guardian about The Bookshop Book showcasing some of the most beautiful bookshops around the world.
Look at this! What else can you be here other than a bookworm? 🙂
The Guardian article mentions another bookstore that is quite special for me. It is a bookstore opened by Alice Munro in 1963 in Victoria, Canada. They opened the original bookstore in a narrow space near Victoria’s movie theaters, and now it is housed in a neo-classical building from 1909 designed for the Bank of Canada. Jen Campbell says “they keep their overstock in the old bank’s vaults.” It is old, but extremely modern, a brilliant outcome of innovative design!
This bookstore is special for me, not because I have been there but because Alice Munro is one of my all-time favorite authors whose Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013 is more than well-deserved. She has been repeatedly called the “modern day Chekhov” by so many literary critics and she is without doubt the master of telling small town life in Ontario, Canada. You don’t know how many e-mails I got from my friends on the day she got the prize thanking me for introducing them to the books of Alice Munro. Finally… If there is one fictional character that I am dreaming of Damian Lewis playing on stage or on screen, that is from an Alice Munro short story. I am not giving any details here. Hehe. But I plan on writing a piece on that story, and how Damian Lewis’ name is written all over the main male character. See how we start with a bookstore and come full circle with Damian Lewis? Everything’s connected! 😀 And, you know, if I won the lottery, I would produce that film myself starring Damian Lewis and… No, I am not casting myself… 🙂 I’m thinking of Saoirse Ronan or Andrea Riseborough (especially after seeing her storming The Silent Storm with Damian Lewis) as strong competitors for the main female character.
Now that we have come full circle with Damian, let’s talk a bit about him and his love for books! When asked about his non-sporting interests in 5 minutes with Damian Lewis interview, Damian goes…
…and makes reading his number one non-sporting interest! And, of course, he is not just going around supporting books and bookstores; in fact, he is always spotted carrying a book in his hand, in his pocket or under his arm, he is the definition of the very hashtag JaniaJania was talking about earlier: #HotGuysReading 🙂
Here is Lauren Collins describing her lunch meeting with Damian in her wonderful New Yorker profile: “…he had been to bed at 6 a.m. after a late shoot, still in his makeup—“Mascara on the pillowcase, it’s a terrible embarrassment for a girl!”—but he had had the presence of mind to stuff a Murakami paperback in his jeans pocket.”
No surprise there. Damian always has a book with him. Always.
Now… If Damian Lewis loving books and supporting bookstores is still not good enough reason for you to go buy real books in real bookstores… Then, my friends, science also has GREAT NEWS for those of us that read REAL BOOKS! Seriously!
“A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”
“Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.”
I, of course, understand the practicality of reading e-books, being able to carry 5,000 books on your kindle, and we have a Nook at home, too… But still… it may be worth reading the entire article here. After all, it’s Damian that loves bookstores and actively supports them, and it’s Science that tells us that people reading real books are doing better! And, you never know whom you will find behind those shelves 🙂
Please visit Books are My Bag website, buy a bag, or a tshirt, and support the bookstores! They prefer you to visit a bookstore and buy their merchandise but they sell online, too, here, in case you are not living in the UK — and yes I have already my bag and I am loving it 🙂
And I am leaving the last word to great John Waters: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”