Shelf AwarenessBritish author Sara Sheridan, whose latest novel is England Expects, loves bookshops. "Everywhere I go I try to hunt out local bookshops," she wrote on the U.K.'s Books Are My Bag website. "Some are quite magical--almost as if the selection has been tailored for me. I'm a story adventurer always on the lookout for a book that will give me that intoxicating experience of removing me from the real world and sucking me between its pages....
"Still, what I like most about bookshops are the differences between them.... This makes it difficult to pick my top ten favorite things in bookshops. Quite apart from anything else it's difficult to restrict the list and ironically not all of my favorite things have much to do with books, per se, but here I go:
- A comfortable chair to curl up in.
- Somewhere to wander--shelves that go round corners or up stairs.
- The prospect of a cup of tea...
- ...and a scone.
- A relaxed atmosphere...
- ...in which you can ask for recommendations or discuss something you've found.
- An unexpected section by which I mean shelves of books that have been curated by the shop--art books or Italian cookery books or a fan section for an unusual genre. I discovered Elizabeth Jane Howard's work this way--a joy.
- The smell of printed paper and hardback covers.
- A ticking clock. I have fond memories of being lulled in a second hand Wigtown bookshop by a ticking clock. It was raining outside and I spent the afternoon browsing around corners and coming across a chair now and then. The clock felt like a heartbeat and I came away with some very special finds.
- Last but not least, the clever and inspiring people behind the counter--those at the crossroads of our reading lives who give their time and will chat with kindness. Thank you for all the stories you have directed my way without judgment. That, without doubt, is the most important thing.