On April 29, readers across Canada can head to their local bookstore to celebrate Canadian Independent Bookstore Day.
Now in its third year, the day is an initiative to promote shopping at independent bookstores within the local community.
Independent bookstores are planning competitions and in-store activities, bringing together book lovers and sellers for the one-day event.
And it’s a good day for book sales too.
Laura Carter, executive director of the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, says book sales increased by 91 per cent on last year’s Independent Bookstore Day, compared with the previous Saturday.
“It’s a fun day for readers to come out and connect with booksellers and show their appreciation for what they do, and join in a celebration together,” she said.
To mark the day, we asked 10 Canadian writers about their favourite local bookstore.
Janie Chang, The Porcelain Moon (HarperCollins)
Her picks: Talewind Books, Sechelt, B.C., and Book Warehouse Main St., Vancouver
“[I love] the staff – so knowledgeable and great at personal service. It was like chatting with other book lovers, not sales people. They just wanted to share what they knew about books they had read and loved, and to help you discover new authors and new books.
“As a reader, bookstores mean more to me than just a retail outlet. It’s a place that builds community, a haven where you’re free to browse as long as you like, a venue to discover authors and meet up with fellow avid readers.”
Vikki VanSickle, P.S. Tell No One (Scholastic)
Her pick: Moonbeam Books, Toronto
“Children’s bookstores have a special place in my heart. I was thrilled when Moonbeam opened up just a few blocks away from where I live. In addition to excellent selection, friendly service and amazing window displays – sometimes featuring Taylor Swift lyrics – owner Katharine Tutko anticipates the needs of her customers and creates events tailored for the neighbourhood.
“With decreasing book coverage and splashy American books supported by huge marketing campaigns taking up all the air space, Canadian authors rely on indie booksellers to champion their work. I’m grateful for the support of indie bookstores both as an author and a reader.”
Kate Beaton, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly)
Her pick: On Paper Books, Sydney, N.S.
“We don’t have all that many bookstores on Cape Breton Island. Independent bookstores, even fewer of those. And here is this bookstore that opened in the middle of the pandemic, which was a risk, but which was also filling a need in a community that I think was deeply felt. For all our history of economic displacement, this is a very literary island, we have always had a strong voice, and appetite for books. So I was also proud to watch this store thrive during a time where it might not have, and come through the pandemic with a dedicated readership. Independent bookstores are in the hearts of Canadian readers, everywhere, I think. Frankly I always spend way too much money at them – but I love it! I spend it gladly. Books are my own business, I’m only trying to share the love.”
Tara MacLean, Song of the Sparrow (HarperCollins)
Her pick: Bookmark, Charlottetown
“This store was opened in 1972, the year before I was born, so in my memory, it was always there. I don’t remember the first time I went in, but I have countless memories of walking into the store, seeing the books on the shelves and the smell of the fresh paper. I will always buy my journals there as well, and pretty pens to translate my heart onto the page.
“I’ve heard it said that we are built by the quality of the people we surround ourselves with, and what we read. Independent bookstores give us both of those.”
David A. Robertson, The Song That Called Them Home (Penguin Random House)
His pick: McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Avenue, Winnipeg
“The first time I can remember going there as an author was for my first-ever book launch, for a book I self-published. They put so much work into making me feel important. They make you feel welcome, they really know you and always make you feel valued – whether you are a writer or a reader.”
Geoffrey D. Morrison, Falling Hour (Coach House Books)
His pick: The Paper Hound Bookshop, Vancouver
“What makes the Paper Hound a great bookstore is that they always have a distinct and playful curatorial eye. You’ll find judiciously selected new releases alongside rare second-hand titles on shelves with categories like ‘Wet Adventure’ (nautical non-fiction), ‘Getting High’ (pharmacology) and ‘Getting Higher’ (aviation and space). There’s a good chance they’ll be playing some nice ambient music. Plus I never fail to find something amazing on the bargain cart outside.
“As a reader, I trust independent bookstores to do things with a level of intention and thoughtfulness their corporate competitors can’t. As a writer, I depend upon this trust that independent booksellers build with readers. They are some of the best advocates we have.”
Suzette Mayr, The Sleeping Car Porter (Coach House Books)
Her picks: Pages Books on Kensington, Calgary, and Shelf Life Books, Calgary
“I first visited the bookstores because I wanted to support the bookstore owners who were both alumni at the University of Calgary. I bought too many books, and I haven’t looked back since. Both bookstores really support local authors, and the people who work in the stores are so warm and so friendly. You can tell they love books.”
Lisa Bird-Wilson, Probably Ruby (Penguin Random House)
Her pick: Turning the Tide Bookstore, Saskatoon
“The store has a real community feel to it and it’s been committed to diversity and inclusion since its beginnings. The books the store carries feel like they are part of a carefully curated collection.”
Eden Boudreau, Crying Wolf (Book*hug Press)
Her pick: Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ont.
“When my family and I relocated from Halifax to Ontario in 2016, I was desperately homesick. Especially for the small bookstores and libraries I considered safe spaces back home. After sharing this with a friend, they suggested I check out Blue Heron Books, which happened to be in the next town over from our new home. Most independent bookstores have a cozy feel, it is their nature after all, but Blue Heron also had an incredibly welcoming and friendly team. It was clear from the moment I walked in that they weren’t just there to sell books.”
Liselle Sambury, Delicious Monsters (Simon & Schuster)
Her pick: Another Story Bookshop, Toronto
“I love and appreciate how supportive the staff are of authors. I’ve been living outside of Toronto for the last little while, but it’s important to me to be able to stay connected to an indie in my hometown. I always have a positive experience when I’m able to get back into the city and pay them a visit. On top of that, it’s a wonderfully laid out store that celebrates diverse voices, which is something that I really value.”
Robin Yeatman, Bookworm (HarperCollins)
Her pick: 32 Books & Gallery, North Vancouver
“I visited the store for the first time in 2020, after moving back to Vancouver from Montreal. It’s small but beautifully stocked with a wonderful selection of books. The staff has that magical combination of unobtrusive-yet-helpful that you want at a bookstore. I’ll keep going back because I love the idea of supporting a business that serves book and art lovers – I am one myself, after all.
“What a sacred task independent bookstores have, one that deserves our recognition and support.”
Jen Sookfong Lee, Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart (Penguin Random House)
Her pick: Iron Dog Books, Vancouver
“I really enjoy Hilary and Cliff, who are the owner-operators, and the way they seem to always know what books people want to read. Their store isn’t huge, and yet there is always a surprise waiting for you whenever you walk in.
“Independent bookstores are the places where readers can discover something new, where booksellers can recommend titles that fly under the radar. Without them, those lesser known titles would never have a life. They are so integral to authors, publishers and readers.”