Welcome to the Box of Delights blog. Here you’ll find regular posts about books we’re excited about, issues in the book trade, musings on literary or social phenomena we think are fascinating, and anything else that piques our interest. But first, I think a proper introduction is called for. You know our name and where we are (and if you don’t, check out the About section!), you know we sell books – but what exactly does that mean? What does an independent bookstore do? What can we do for you?
We can show you the world
I know, I know. I stole that from Disney’s Aladdin, and it’s super corny. But it’s also true. Do you know why reading books – any books, so long as they’re well written and you’re enjoying them, of course – is so relaxing and rejuvenating? Part of it is the simple, relaxing act of sitting quietly, but it’s mostly because when you dive into a book, you step outside your own life. When a book grips you, it takes you somewhere else, whether that place be in the past or future, another country, maybe another planet, or even just into someone else’s brain for an hour or so. By doing so, we experience other cultures, other points of view, other worlds. There are a bunch of scientific studies attributing health benefits – both mental and physical – to the act of reading (some of them are here, here, here, here, and here), but we don’t really need scientific research to know that if we’re feeling a little restless, a little home-bound, a little weary of the same old routine, we can pick up a book and disappear to the English countryside, present-day Tokyo, Nazi-occupied Paris, or Colonial British East Africa.
We can make you feel at home
Independent bookstores will never die, and I’ll tell you why: we sell local books. Unlike the big chains (including Amazon), which must sell the massively popular titles to survive and therefore necessarily exclude the little guys – not to mention they often won’t take books from smaller publishers – we foster personal relationships with local publishers and authors, bringing to you the books you sometimes just can’t get anywhere else, about things that are relevant to your life. We sell books that we have received directly from the authors, people you may know. We stock books from independent publishers which focus on subjects of local interest or by local personalities, such as Empty Mirrors Press, Pottersfield Press, Lancelot Press, and Like No Other Press. We’re also fortunate to live in an area with an extraordinarily rich print culture that is recognised nationally. Established publishers like Gaspereau Press, Nimbus and Vagrant Publishing, Conundrum Press, Fernwood Publishing, Formac, Invisible Publishing, and Flanker Press publish books by Atlantic Canadian authors, about the politics, history, and geography specific to our side of Canada. The fiction and poetry is set here, on streets you have walked, in forests you grew up near, in towns you have years-worth of memories in. Why does this matter? I guess the answer to that depends on you. Is a connection to your community important to you? Are you proud of being in the Valley, or Nova Scotian, or Canadian? Do you sometimes struggle to articulate what being Nova Scotian or Canadian means? For us, the answer to all these questions is yes, and so books like Graham Steele’s What I Learned About Politics or Dana Mill’s Someone Somewhere go some way to helping us understand ourselves in our specific, tiny little slice of the big, wide world.
We can bring people together
The act of reading is a solitary pursuit, but it’s not our job to read books – it’s our job to promote reading. We spend a lot of our time and energy trying to drum up conversation about books, bringing them to the forefront in our community for discussion and debate. The popularity of major national events like Canada Reads and the Giller Prize prove to us that the only thing people like more than reading books is talking about those books with lots of other people, and we love to bring those people together. Every month, we host readings and book launches with local and Canadian authors, so you can ask questions and engage in discussion with the brains that brought you the words you connect with. We also love hosting local community groups to discuss other ideas, for example the bi-weekly Everyday Citizenship series which explored a diverse range of topics from osteopathy to gender protocols, childhood trauma to the healing power of singing. Everyday Citizenship is taking a well deserved break over the Spring and Summer, but will return in the Fall. In the meantime, keep an eye on our Facebook page for announcements of new discussion series we’ll be launching soon.
We can find you true love
You know, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of bookselling, it’s really all about match-making. Like Jane Austen’s Emma, we spend our days trying to set you up with your perfect partner – one that will interest you, intrigue you, hold your focus, and maybe fall in love with. We try to speak for the books we sell, explain them, talk them up. We know books can be cagey and modest, their humble covers or uninspired blurbs hiding the genius within their pages. It’s our job to make sure the wallflowers find homes, too, the forgotten classics, the underrated, the difficult-to-explain. That’s why we have four sections devoted to recommendations from staff: our pick of the best new arrivals, new and second-hand; books we think are fantastic and haven’t had the opportunity to shine; and our featured fiction section which includes hand-picked selections from general fiction, crime and mystery, science fiction and fantasy, and young adult. And if none of those are what you’re looking for in your perfect book, we love to be asked! Because once you discover that author, or that book, that you know you can grow old with, that will be there for you in your hours of need, that will see you through the good times and the bad, well – it’s an honour to facilitate that.
So, that’s a small window into what we strive to do for the members of our community. If you have any ideas about more we can do for you, we’d love to chat. See you in the store!