You may remember that I made a conscious effort to resist acquiring books new to me for as long as possible, bearing in mind the many, many unread titles that I already had teetering on my shelves.
As we’re now a quarter of the way through 2020, you bibliophiles out there may (or, more likely, may not) be wondering how well I’m resisting.
The brief answer is, not bad, as I’ll explain. But I’m now in a quandary.
First, the progress. I’ve been eking out acquisitions with a generous gift token from the local choral society for piano accompanying services rendered. I exchanged most of the token’s value for a biography, a hardback graphic novel, my first Moomin book, an academic study and a volume of Oscar Wilde sayings, all from the local indie bookshop Book-ish.
That left me with a few pennies so, this being the centenary of Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel, I used up the residue and added some cash to get The Mysterious Affair at Styles. What’s a bit of loose change to a booklover? ‘S’not really cheating, right? Resolution intact.
But now comes the quandary. Indie bookshops mostly thrive on customers coming into the premises to browse and handle and choose books to purchase. The UK government’s tardy response to Covid-19 has finally put a stop to what are seen at non-essential outlets remaining open: so shops supplying food for the stomach are fine, food for the mind aren’t; pharmacies for bodily health pass the test, but not those for mental health.
People like me have over many years indulged in an apparent panic-buying of books for a crisis just like this. (It’s called tsundoku, for those of you who don’t indulge!) But for independent retailers it’s potentially a financial and personal disaster to be told to close until further notice. How can they survive without customers buying their wares?
Here’s what some bookshops like Book-ish are doing, if they haven’t already done so: they’re putting their entire stock online and encouraging regular customers to order from them rather than the global giants. If we want to see a local indie still on our High Street after all this is over we need to be virtual customers.
So the quandary over my resolution evaporates like morning mist: with a light heart I shall ditch one good intention for another: I will be helping to keep a local business afloat while feeding my mind.
Maybe you have a local business in the same position?
At this month’s end I’ve also come to an end of three events. For March Magics I’ve read two Diana Wynne Jones novels and one Terry Pratchett; for Reading Ireland Month I’ve read two Irish authors, Oscar Wilde and Eleanor Fitzsimons; and for the Wales Readathon I’ve finished a collection of tales by Daniel Morden and celebrated a certain Welsh indie bookshop.
Also, by a certain stretch, Diana Wynne Jones (whose father Richard Aneurin Jones, was Welsh, and who had many Welsh relatives) could be regarded as ‘from’ the Principality, though born in England, and so I’ve included two of her titles in my Readathon.
And, even though I haven’t completed a review yet, I’ve also finished the brilliant The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo, herself resident in Wales for four decades and married to a Welsh man, thus stilling qualms about not participating in Dewithon as much as I wanted to!