Although I am an author and also run my own research business, I have spent the greater part of my working life as a bookseller. I have been employed by two library supply companies and I’ve also been in charge of forty-two bookshops in a large retail chain. I’m very proud to have been able to call myself a bookseller and I was very sad when I realised that I could no longer describe myself as one when I renewed my passport this year. Some of the friendliest, most intelligent people I have ever met have been booksellers; I have rarely known one who was not only passionate about books but also genuinely committed to helping others to find the books that they would enjoy. Amazon did not invent ‘If you like that, you’ll like this, too’ and, whereas search engines can be frustratingly unhelpful, real live booksellers really do use their knowledge and insight to guide you to what you might like. Unfortunately, in common with most retail workers, booksellers are not well-paid. Many live in shared houses until they are well into their thirties; yet often they stay in the industry for twenty, thirty or forty years. It would be unnecessary to ask why, because the answer is obvious:
Booksellers are on a mission; a mission that brings civilisation, fulfilment and intellectual stimulus to almost everyone whom they encounter. We are lucky to have them – and local bookshops.