Bantry Bookstore, I doubt if you even realize what you did to me – or maybe it’s what you did for me. I guess only time will tell.

First, I need to thank you for reminding me that bookstores are more than just places for browsing and buying. They’re places for sharing ideas, thoughts and opinions. For a while I was your only customer on a slow, rainy morning and truly enjoyed the way your staffer gave me the space to wander until she saw me staring at a shelf of new releases. Her offer to help led us to a wonderful conversation on the merits of translated works. I mentioned the Edgar Allen Poe style of You-jeong Jeong’s Good Son, which I’d just finished. We joked about the character names in Russian novels. You know the kind: the names you never have to pronounce but simply recognize their alphabetical pattern. She left me to help another customer and when she returned saw me looking at Jane Harper’s newest. At that point I didn’t know that Harper, unlike many crime writers, has introduced a new protagonist. We spent the next few minutes discussing our likes and dislikes in the crime genre. While we spoke my heart was telling me to buy the book but my brain reminded me of the ever-growing stack of to-be-read books piling up next to my bed. And desk. And sofa. I made a mental note to buy it in another store on my tour, perhaps to read on an upcoming flight. 

Then I picked up to Forest of Wool and Steel, a Japanese novel whose dust jacket gives no real description of its contents, but whose design captivated me. We continued our conversation on the gains and losses of translations as we walked to the till and I bought the book. And one more thing, it’s a hardbound book! Even though I’ve already bought a bunch of new books, this was the first hardbound copy I’ve encountered. Are they a dying breed, or just an aberration? Did this subconsciously influence my impulse purchasing decision?

While I was paying for my book one of the owners came through the door carefully balancing three take-away cups of tea and a bag of scones. I asked her if it would be easier to keep a kettle in the store and she told me that she believed in supporting the local retailers along the street. “It helps the neighbors and their business,” she told me.

I love her attitude.

Oh, and about that Jane Harper book. Later, on my way home, I felt guilty about not buying it, knowing that I eventually would. Not quite as bad as sampling in person and buying online, but close, since I’d be buying at another store in another town. I felt guilty as hell, but at this point I was nearly home, so I wasn’t going to turn back.

So…please accept my apology for doing my shopping with you and my spending with another. I promise not to do it again. Anywhere.

This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.