One of the joys of moving to Crickhowell in 2014 was discovering it had an independent bookshop. Called, aptly, Book-ish, it was housed in lovely but cramped premises. That didn’t stop owner Emma from inaugurating the first Crickhowell Literary Festival in 2015.
I’ve blogged several times before about the festival so I won’t repeat myself here; instead I want to sing the praises of the bookshop now it’s firmly established on the High Street.
But don’t take it from me: Book-ish has won many, many awards.
Damian Barr’s Literary Salon named it the Indie Bookshop of the Month for February 2020. Back in July 2019 it was named National Book Tokens Bookshop of the Month. In the British Book Awards (or Nibbies) for 2017 it was a regional finalist for the Independent Bookshop of the Year, in 2019 it was the regional winner, and in 2020 it has again made it onto the regional shortlist for Wales.
Back in 2018, when the town was named Great British High Street, owner Emma was awarded the title of High Street Hero. And Amy, one of the staff at the shop, has been recognised for organising the Crickhowell Children’s Book Festival with a Young Bookseller Special Achievement Award.
In the main shop there are several sections: fiction by author, crime, classics, poetry, non-fiction, local interest, fantasy and SF, feminist titles, signed books, picture books, graphic novels, literature-related stationary, tables for recently published books — it’s a wonder so much can be packed into one space without feeling crowded.
Below ground level there’s a cosy sort of Room of Requirement for younger readers from pre-teens to young adults, and on the way to the back of the premises there are more sections for travel, gardening, cooking and nature.
And, wonder of wonders, there’s a well-patronised Book-ish Café serving cakes, snacks and drinks, and a well-appointed comfy loft space suitable for meetings and for the essential talks from authors.
Now, there’s a reason why I’m writing a virtual puff for the business (apart from a kind of reflected pride): it’s because at a time of perennial doom and gloom, and particularly after premature predictions that indie bookshops couldn’t survive the online onslaught of Amazon and others, it’s heartwarming to confirm that some positive things are still happening.
And when it comes to books — especially hold-in-the-hand touchy-feelie books — what’s not to like? Especially from a book outlet with friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable staff.
Yes, there is a downside, in that there are never going to be the massively discounted bargains that are offered online, but think of the struggling authors and artists you might be helping to support, and the publishers who can then afford to promote the kind of worthy titles that may not have mass market appeal but which you may want to read.
So that’s why I want to celebrate my local indie bookshop. And of course today is World Book Day in the UK and Ireland …