Indie bookstores and Canadian creators have a special relationship. Local booksellers are steadfast champions of local authors. They help readers discover new favourites and help strengthen our national cultural output.
In the lead up to Canadian Independent Bookstore Day 2023, we invited authors to share their appreciation for Canadian indies.
Check out what they had to say below!
Independent bookstores are vital to Canadian authors—especially smaller authors who often struggle to get their work on shelves in corporate stores. Books by Canadian authors through small publishers be more difficult to access in bigger establishments that prioritize carrying bestsellers. Independent bookstores give many emerging and marginalized authors a chance to get their work into the hands of readers.
– Maya Ameyaw, author of When It All Syncs Up (Annick Press)
There’s really nothing like browsing an independent bookstore, looking for a novel that could unexpectedly become your next favourite. What an intimate experience it can be to browse carefully curated tables and shelves beside strangers who are doing the same—each of you picking up things that appeal, or covers that catch your eye, maybe even exchanging a comment or two if you’ve read what the other is looking at. And, later, cracking the spine of whatever you’ve bought feels especially satisfying. The charm of a bookstore becomes part of the reading journey itself.
– Ashley Audrain, author of The Whispers (Penguin Random House Canada)
Indies are more important than ever because Amazon and other soulless large conglomerates are only interested in profit over the indelible literary experience. Indies are warm, comforting, eclectic, welcoming — the heart of the community. They provide what Amazon cannot — humans connecting other humans to stories that are urgent and current. Storytelling has shaped who we are as a species and is largely threatened by algorithms. Indies give us a place to share and connect, and any place like that needs protecting.
– S.M. Beiko, author of The Stars of Mount Quixx (ECW Press)
Independent bookstores are the defenders of literature that is local and idiosyncratic. When you go into one, you encounter a sensibility, an idea of the world, not just a consumer experience. You are meeting a place that is as specific as a person, as the face of an individual, and you come there for something more than having your shopping demands met. You are meeting a place and the books in it. You are going into someone's home.
– Kate Cayley, author of Lent (Book*hug Press)
Canada’s indie bookstores are an important part of our literary ecosystem. One day a year isn’t enough to show my appreciation for all the support they give Canadian authors every single day of the year.
– Janie Chang, author of The Porcelain Moon (HarperCollins Canada)
Many authors rely on booksellers and readers to spread the word about our words. Indie bookstores do that for us, ensuring a necessary diversity of voices get public airtime. Indie bookstores feature people like me and offer a platform and profile for our books. Their work is a true labour of love for the written word. I love indie bookstores... I wouldn’t be an author without them.
– Annahid Dashtgard, author of Bones of Belonging (Dundurn Press)
Every independent bookstore has its own unique personality and yet they all make me feel at home. Whenever I travel to a new place, I’m quick to find the local bookstore. I browse the shelves, buy a book or two, and immediately feel grounded. It’s like a homecoming. To books and to book people. What could be better?
– Deborah Hemming, author of Goddess (House of Anansi Press)
Independent bookstores are incredibly important for the communities they serve and the authors they feature. I have such special relationships with Massy Books in Vancouver and Glass Bookshop in Edmonton—I’ve received more support from them (and many more amazing independent bookstores) than I have from bigger retailers. They have single-handedly affected my sales, profile, and visibility in the world as a debut author. It has meant everything to me. Indie bookstores will FOREVER have my heart!
– Jessica Johns, author of Bad Cree (HarperCollins Canada)
Independent bookstores are run on their own terms. Because of that they give viability to books that also work on their own terms—books that are made not because the market asked for them or because a trend was spotted, but because they carve out a new universe all their own. Every independent bookstore is a universe of its own, too, and it takes one to know one. Independent bookstores foster independent books.
– Jon Klassen, author of The Skull (Penguin Random House Canada)
Whether I am exploring a new neighbourhood, visiting a different city, or travelling in a new country, I always make a point to visit an independent bookstore. They reflect their communities and often showcase the work of local authors and illustrators. Independent bookstores also often take a chance on smaller independent publishers or bring in obscure titles from far away foreign publishers, so there is always something new to discover. One of my favourite independent bookstores to explore in Toronto is Queen Books. I always leave feeling inspired and with a book or two in hand.
– Thao Lam, author of Happy Birthday to Me (House of Anansi Press)
Most of my favourite books have come to me through personal recommendation—this is why I love going to local independent bookstores. I crave an idiosyncratic summary of a book, a weird fact about the author, the gesture of placing a paperback into my hands. These booksellers are invaluable—whether they are writing a staff recommendation card, responding with enthusiasm and care to some vague desire I’ve expressed about what I want to read next, or emailing me to let me know something I ordered is ready for pick-up. In all these moments I’m grateful to find connection through all the independent bookstores I get to visit.
– t. liem, author of Slows: Twice (Coach House Books)
I live around the corner from two amazing independent bookshops that are part of the fabric of my every day. I check the windows every time I pass by and pop in when I have a few moments. Wandering around feels like browsing the news or checking up on old friends. Bookshops are home to those perfect moments where I can simultaneously be alone and in community. I used to work at an independent bookshop in Paris. Many years later, I lived there as a writer-in-residence. It is not an exaggeration to say that bookshops and booksellers have sustained me.
– Harriet Alida Lye, author of Serge, the Snail Without a Shell (Nimbus Publishing)
Independent bookstore owners and staff are people who love books and my favourite people in the world. Every summer when I’m visiting family in Ontario, I go to Book City on the Danforth in Toronto with a list. More recently, I’ve also been going to Books & Company in Picton. Even though it’s only once a year, I know I can talk to them about what they’re reading and what they think I should read next. Visiting the bookstore is one of my favourite going-home rituals. It’s where I go to feel like I belong to a community.
– Jeannie Marshall, author of All Things Move (Biblioasis)
Thank you, independent bookstores, for being temples where readers and writers can go worship and, in worshipping, come to better understand other human animals and this planet we inhabit. Thank you for selling socks printed with slogans that sing the songs of my people, like “F*ck off, I’m reading,” which I walk around in until they are full of holes. Thank you for selling the blank books I write in and the printed books I read. Thank you for making Canadian writers feel worthy of taking up bookshelf space. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for you.
– Suzette Mayr, author of The Sleeping Car Porter (Coach House Books)
Dear Indie Bookstores: In the murky seas of recent book bannings, you have been a beacon of hope and tolerance. Unbound by corporate restraints, you can (and do) shine a light on authors, ideas, and books that could otherwise get carried off in the undertow. You keep us afloat. You are a safe harbour. You are essential!
– Mireille Messier, author of No Horses in the House! (Orca Book Publishers)
A note to Jean-Philip, my bookseller at the Librairie du Soleil in the ByWard Market (Ottawa): The first time I saw one of my books promoted in a bookstore, with praise about its supposed great qualities, was at your venue. It said, among other things, that I was a local author. As a first-time novelist, I was amazed every time a reader who had stopped by your bookstore told me that his attention had been drawn to the spot you had reserved to my novel. Three books later, I would like to say thank you again.
– Blaise Ndala, author of In the Belly of the Congo (Simon & Schuster Canada)
I appreciate that independent booksellers don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, they make their choices with intention, offering a glimpse into the values and communities that sustain them. They are curators of knowledge as well as spaces where less well-known texts can be given the platform they deserve. There is a radical politic that lives in the heart of every independent bookstore. I hope that is never lost.
– SJ Okemow, author of Âmî Osâwâpikones / Dear Dandelion (Annick Press)
There’s nothing better than a bookstore—and independent bookstores are the very best. I could get lost in my local indie for hours. Every time I visit Shelf Life Books in Calgary, I’m simultaneously captivated and comforted. I appreciate the stunning curated selections, and most of all, I appreciate how books by Canadian authors are always given pride of place, showcasing the incredible diversity and talent that we are lucky to call our own.
– Idman Nur Omar, author of The Private Apartments (House of Anansi Press)
Canadian indies made my career. Without the support of independent bookshops, including Brome Lake Books in my own village, there’s no way there would be 18 Gamache books. That’s why it was the first thing I created in Three Pines. Myrna’s Bookshop. Beyond that, as a reader, it’s where I choose to spend time. Is there anything better than wandering the shelves of a Canadian independent bookstore?
– Louise Penny, author of A World of Curiosities (Minotaur/Raincoast Books)
The first bookstore that I fell in love with was The Inside Story in Greenwood, NS. If there was ever a record of the evolution of my love of books, it would be receipts from The Inside Story. From my obsession with The Babysitters Club to Christopher Pike then Sidney Sheldon to John Steinbeck and Jane Urquhart. Christmas money, birthday money, babysitting money all went to the Inside Story. When I was eighteen and got my first full time summer job, each payday was a trip to the bookstore. The Inside Story helped shape me as a reader. And in a full circle moment, my own book comes out April 4 and the bookseller for my launch is The Inside Story. I will forever be grateful that this little bookstore gave me so much.
– Amanda Peters, author of The Berry Pickers (HarperCollins Canada)
Indie bookstores are the pulse of Canadian literature. They’ve always felt like home to me, and I’ll never forget how they helped start my career. There’s a community there and it sustains the very real and powerful connection between artist and reader. I had my first launch over twenty years ago at McNally Robinson here in Winnipeg. I was a nobody who’d just written a self-published novel. But they pulled out all the stops. There was media and a packed crowd. I’d never felt more that I could reach my goals. It helped get me to where I am today, and I know they’ve done the same for countless other authors and illustrators.
– David A. Robertson, author of The Song That Called Them Home (Penguin Random House Canada)
The folks at indie bookstores are some of the most passionate and dedicated people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in this industry. Walking into an indie brings back all those childhood feelings of entering a wonderland filled with people who love books as much as you do. I’m especially thankful to independent bookstores for highlighting works that might not otherwise get the visibility needed to reach the readers who need them.
– Liselle Sambury, author of Delicious Monsters (Simon & Schuster Canada)
When I was 17 years old, I took refuge in independent bookstores. I was living on the street and rarely saw myself reflected in textbooks or in newspapers—especially as an Indigenous youth. I remember walking into Spartacus Books, then on Hastings Street, opening books by Lee Maracle, E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, Vine Deloria Jr., and Ardythe Wilson, and feeling seen. These books gave me a sense of acceptance, hope, and identity in a world that otherwise told me I didn't belong. They would also inspire me to tell the stories of Indigenous and marginalized groups in hopes of upholding the truth and healing the wounds caused by colonial violence, today.
– Angela Sterritt, author of Unbroken (Greystone Books)
Dear Indie Bookstores: Thank you for reminding me to slow down and just wander. For that thing you conjure, when shallow shelves containing a proliferation of worlds make the walls come alive. Thank you for doing that in your own unique way.
– Kai Thomas, author of In the Upper Country (Penguin Random House Canada)
Independent bookstores have always provided a gentle welcome to me as both a writer and reader. In the bookstores I love, I feel like a guest in someone’s special room, where all I have to do is browse and be, exploring until I find a universe I want to enter. Some of my favourite independent bookstores in Canada are Munro's in Victoria, McNally Robinson in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, The Yellowknife Book Cellar, and Glass Bookshop and Audreys Books in Edmonton. Unlike big-box stores, independent bookstores can take chances, celebrating titles that often don’t get the press they deserve and showcasing what booksellers love to read and want the whole world to enjoy.
– Richard Van Camp, author of As I Enfold You in Petals (Portage & Main Press)
Having a beloved local bookstore is a bit like having a local bar—a place you can go to relax, shake off a hard day, and chat with a bookseller who knows exactly what you like. I always leave my local feeling better than I did when I came in.
– Vikki VanSickle, author of P.S. Tell No One (Scholastic Canada)
Every time I step into an indie bookstore, I’m greeted with friendly faces and an air of comfort. These bookstores are a safe haven for diverse voices and stories. They capture perspectives that are wholly unique to their own. Whenever I travel to a new place, my first stop will always be to the local bookstore!
– Karina Zhou, author of Kai’s Tea Eggs (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Responses have been edited slightly for length and clarity. Thank you to all those who submitted.