Canadian independent bookstores are steadfast champions of local authors. They help readers discover new favourites with knowledgeable and intuitive recommendations, and they go above and beyond to strengthen our national cultural output. Case and point: BookNet Canada sales data included in the More Canada Report illustrates that independents sell Canadian titles at twice the rate of other retailers in the market.
In the lead up to Canadian Independent Bookstore Day 2021, we invited authors from across the country to share their appreciation for booksellers and bookstores. Their heartfelt words demonstrate the incredible impact your work has on writers, local communities, and Canadian culture.
Thank you, indie bookstores!
"Indie bookstores are important to Canadian culture because they foster like-minded community and promote authors readers may not hear of otherwise. Independent bookstores bring together people with similar interests which sparks new creativity. I know if it weren’t for my local children’s Indie (Mabel’s Fables) I wouldn’t be who I am as a new author!”
-Layla Ahmad, author of When Mom’s Away (Second Story Press)
“My ambition as an author isn’t to write a best-seller, but to write a book that will be THAT book for someone. Indie bookstores (and that other endangered species, teacher librarians) help readers find their THAT books. They are absolutely indispensable. If the right book can change a life, then so can the right bookstore.”
-Erin Bow, author of Stand on the Sky (Scholastic Canada)
"Every place I go, I seek out indie bookstores. They’re the quirky kid with the funky hair at the back of class, showing up everyone with some great detail or smart, informed take. They see things differently. They speak up for the underdog, the unsung, the beautiful and strange. They remind me that it’s possible to choose an alternative path, that bigger isn’t always better. Weird is good. They remind me, too, that there are other people who care more than anything about books and writing and authors and art. That I am not alone in my search for the perfect phrase, the glittering image. I am not alone in my longing to articulate that thing for which there are no words."
-Andrea Curtis, author of City of Water (Groundwood Books)
"When storefronts were closed early in the pandemic and I was looking for a book, one of my favourite Vancouver indie bookstores, The Paper Hound, tracked it down. A staff member then personally delivered it by bicycle and placed it at my front door. Thank you to indie bookstores like The Paper Hound, Pulp Fiction Books, and MacLeod's Books for all their care and hard work – this year especially!
-Alison Dean, author of Seconds Out: Women and Fighting (Coach House Books)
“Thank you to indie bookstores for being the strange, atypical, non-standardized, funky, off-centre, and idiosyncratic cultural hubs, both of the communities in which they’re located, and of the broader Canadian literary community. Their lack of a head office allows them to follow the whims and desires of the true shareholder: the reader.”-Andrew Forbes, author of The Only Way Is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game (Invisible Books)
“An urban pocket of forest-quiet. A home to hidden stories, where we can turn over a mossy hardcover and find the writhing life inside. A champion of little birds, so often overlooked, who sing from the eye-level shelves. A host for an artistic ecosystem to gather and interact, to find our symbiosis. Thank you for being this.”-Sharon King-Campbell, author of This Is How It Is (Breakwater Books)
“Without indie book shops there would be no Sheree Fitch books in the hands of readers. I believe that. Those booksellers like Woozles and Granny Bates Books here on the east coast, Thora Howell Books on Bastion Street in Nanaimo, McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, Tinlids in Toronto. These places supported and handsold my nonsense in the early days. The advocacy helped support an unknown young writer by letting teachers and librarians know about the books before anyone.”
“Canadian indies are run by people who read Canadian books. It might sound simple, but books represent the varied voices in Canadian culture - without indie bookstores, readers may miss out on these vital stories.”
-Samantha Garner, author of The Quiet is Loud (Invisible Publishing)
"Indie bookstore Shelf Life Books is my favourite place in my new home here in Calgary. I feel like I've hardly been able to get to know the city because of the pandemic, so I count myself very lucky that the bookstore is walking distance from me with excellent safety protocols, curbside pick-up, and accessible delivery options. It's also a gorgeous, bright, dog-friendly physical space, and full of extra-good queer vibes from when the building was a long-time gay bar! Jun and the staff put a tonne of care into throwing a beautiful virtual launch party for me and Larissa Lai in March, and devote so much time and energy to supporting and promoting marginalized and local authors year-round, both online and in-store."
Awkward Ode to Canadian Indie Bookstores (with apologies to EB Browning)
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and height of your wonderfully book-laden shelves
and to the breadth of the range of your titles. I love thy staff,
who shares equally, not only my passion for your wares
but can recommend just the perfect picks to suit my needs and, lo, desires.
I love thee from the moment I step through your door and could browse forever.
Verily I can only say adieu, hope it will suffice,
when my arms are filled with books, their authors varied (but
especially Canadian). Yea, I love thee with the smiles of all my life;
and no one could love thee better, no matter what.”
-Susan Hughes, Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built (Owlkids Books)
“Indie bookstores are the vibrant, beating heart of Canlit. When indies thrive, so does our culture and community.”-Deborah Kerbel, author Like a Duck (Scholastic Canada)
“In 1994, I met my wife at an appearance at an indie kids’ bookstore. So thank you, thank you, thank you - not just for connecting books and readers, but for setting my life on the right track.”-Gordon Korman, author Unplugged (Scholastic Canada)
“Independent bookstores have always been important, but now, more than ever, they have shown themselves to be integral parts of our communities big and small. I encourage you to stop in, visit their online shop, or give a call to your favourite bookseller. I know they would be more than happy to help you find your next perfect read.”-Joanne Levy, author of The Sun Will Come Out (Orca Book Publishers)
“Every independent bookstore is unique and reflects its staff and location. I really appreciate the quirkiness of each bookstore collection and the sense of discovery you feel when you walk in. I’m very grateful to independent bookstores for supporting my writing and helping Canadians read Canadian stories.”
-Elizabeth MacLeod, author Meet Thérèse Casgrain, Scholastic Canada Biography series (Scholastic Canada)
“Independent bookstores are magical places. They have a unique charm and are home to booksellers who actually know and love what they’re selling.”
- Carolyn Huizinga Mills, author of The Good Son (Cormorant Books)
“We absolutely love the camaraderie and cozy feelings indie bookstores evoke. They're a safe place, with gorgeous books nestled and tucked into every corner, and booksellers who are genuinely excited and knowledgeable about the books they're handselling! Indie bookstores are an all-around book nerd's paradise!"
-Sasha and Sarena Nanua, authors of Sisters of the Snake (HarperCollins Canada)
“At Blue Heron Books, you’re a somebody. In response to my Facebook post, "Just sold my first book!" they wrote "And you'll have your book launch here!" Five years later, I'm the author of 3 books, but I'll never forget how special they made me feel.”
-Heather M. O’Connor, author of Fast Friends (Scholastic Canada)
“Independent bookstores are stamped and steeped through with love. They exist because their owners love books, their staff love books, and their customers feel welcomed and recognized as lovers of books. You never know what you might find in an independent. They don’t just stick to the current “hot” titles, but feature books that matter to them, books by local authors, books that make them think. Their staff recommendations are the best. Some of my favourite independents include Novel Idea in Kingston (my indie for years), Ben McNally’s in Toronto, Massy Books in Vancouver, and Munro’s in Victoria (my current indie).”-Susan Olding, author of Big Reader: Essays (Freehand Books)
"The staff at indie bookstores read (a lot!). They know the books and the authors. And what they don’t know they will find out for you. As a Canadian author, they help make my books local all across the country. Thank you thank you thank you, Indies, for being there for us.”-Sylvia Olsen, author of Unravelling Canada (Douglas & McIntyre)
“When my twins were little, I’d often take them to my favourite indie bookstore, Munro’s Books. We’d spend hours in the children’s section, and we’d all get to leave with one book. On one occasion we got to the counter to pay, only to discover my son had tucked a smaller book inside his other choice. When the book seller pointed this out, my son turned to me with his big eyes and said, “But it’s so hard to pick just one.” This story pretty much sums up every single visit I have to any indie bookstore:).”
“What do I like about indie book stores? I like that walking into one feels like walking into your favorite room at home, but better (because we might have seen a lot of that room lately): they're filled with great stories and equally great people who love to share them.”Ted Staunton, author It Seemed Like a Good Idea (Scholastic Canada)
“On a particularly busy day at Mabel’s Fables Bookstore in Toronto couple of years ago, someone just came in, made a beeline for the counter, and said “turtles.” I handed them a copy of Turtle Pond by James Gladstone and Karen Reczuch. He nodded, paid in cash, and left. I hope he enjoyed his book!”
“What do I love about independent bookstores? What DON'T I love would be easier to answer. The curation, which differs from store to store. The passion, which each individual seller brings to their job. The comfort and feel of a store that's JUST ABOUT READING.”
Kevin Sylvester, author of The Fabulous Zed Watson (HarperCollins Canada)
“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to thank you for all the ways you’ve saved my life—selling my books, allowing me to pay bills and eat food—but also, as importantly, providing me with all the books I need to live, to think, to survive uncertain times, and to be sane and nourished.”
Miriam Toews, author of Fight Night (Penguin Random House Canada)
“Free at my local bookstore: first-name connections, intriguing conversations, community happenings, reading recommendations, support for local artists, children’s circle, book clubs, literacy programs… Supporting indie bookstores: priceless.”-Heather Tucker, author of the Indie Next Pick The Clay Girl and the forthcoming Cracked Pots. (ECW Press)
“I have probably visited Drawn and Quarterly at least once a week ever since I moved to Montreal almost a decade ago. They somehow fit more books than you imagine possible, in two languages, into this space that has also been the setting of more readings and events and gatherings than I can count. I always imagine it filled with people, and children, and dogs, like some kind of hearth of the neighbourhood.
- Aimee Wall, author of We, Jane (Book*hug Press)
“I love the knowledge, enthusiasm and book suggestions from Indies! I’ve always counted on their friendly, wise help to find the best books.”-Frieda Wishinsky, author of How to Become and Accidental Activist (Orca Book Publishers)
"What I love about independent bookstores is their passion for building knowledge, creativity, and meaningful connections in the community!"--Sennah Yee, author of My Day with Gong Gong, (Annick Press)