One of the many insights I have gained in my short time working as a high school English Teacher is that people often enjoy reading much more than they think they do when first presented with a book. Almost every day, or during any activity where reading is required, I hear the immediate protests of one or two of my teenage students in a full class, who say that the ‘insufferable’ act of sitting with a book is just simply boring.
But then, that magic moment happens when a student actually finds a book they want to read. It’s almost like falling in love for the first time, and it brings joy to my heart when I see even the most reluctant of readers find something they like about a work of fiction, a poem, or a play. When I see that thirst for knowledge, I know more than ever that our stories and story-telling traditions can have a huge impact on youth, and on our society.
In these moments, I begin to wonder what drives our collective love of reading, whether it be for knowledge, connection, or simply entertainment. I begin to think of the places around Edmonton where these stories thrive, and where Edmonton writers and readers can join together in a community of “accidental communication”–where every page and person becomes a welcome twist in our social landscape. And then I thought: of course! Our local bookstores!
That’s right, today the Local Goodness Project is talking about the #yegbookstores and booksellers that we all know and love!
Why Our Local Bookstores Matter
Edmonton’s local books stores have become iconic in the community. The people of this city know them as centres for literary delight, and will flock to them to fill an empty bag full of books, even spending hours trying to find their next favourite read–or maybe they just got distracted by the cat at Wee Book Inn. Still, it’s worth noting that Local bookstores are more than just a place to buy books–they’re community centres where all voices have a chance to be heard, or read.
And while chain books stores cater to hot ticket international bestsellers and book club favourites, it’s in local bookstores where you can find works by local and self-published authors as well as others who have gained some regional or local notoriety over the years. Beyond supporting people in the community It can be a special experience reading books that incorporate local settings and landmarks, such as The Life of a Neighbourhood: A History of Edmonton’s Oliver District, 1870 to 1950.
Beyond the benefits of shopping and buying local as opposed to a big business, local bookstores have become centres for live entertainment in the community. Local book stores often host events, classes, concerts and readings that highlight local talent making book stores increasingly important to the arts and culture scene of the community.
When COVID-19 closures came in mid-March, new challenges arose for all small businesses across the country, including our local bookstores. Many of our favorite stores had no choice but to close down, or let staff go indefinitely upon facing a number of operational uncertainties. And yet, there were few other establishments in Edmonton who so quickly pivoted in the face of crisis. Indeed, these bookstores have gone over and above to serve their community, and have improved community literacy in isolation by continuing to provide book deliveries, offer curbside pick up, and even now as they slowly open up their doors again. However, it is important that we show our thanks by continuing to support the efforts of local booksellers.
So, our #localgoodnessYEG challenge of the day is to take the time to read local, and use your money to shop local, too! Consider exploring our list of Edmonton-local bookstores below to find that special book you’ve been looking for, or to buy a forever-gift for a friend! And don’t hesitate to post about your great new find on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook under the campaign’s hashtag.
Get Lost in the Pages
If you want to support a local bookstore, #localgoodnessYEG is here to get you connected to the right bookstore for you! Here’s a list of several Edmonton Book Hubs where you can buy your next page-turner:
At the time this piece is being written, the province has only recently allowed bookstores to reopen, so the particulars included in our list below may change. Make sure to reach out and follow these places on social media to keep up to date on the latest business information as they work to keep their employees and customers safe!
A great place to get started is at the iconic burgundy clad Audrey’s Books, located in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown. Audrey’s isn’t opening it’s doors right at this moment but they are still offering curbside pickup for shoppers who want choose books in advance!
If you would like to continue shopping safely online, it is also worth checking out what the Edmonton Book Store has to offer in their online store. The Glass Bookshop, a new favourite among Edmontonians thanks to an outstanding collection of both local and national queer, Indigenous, and BIPOC-friendly texts, is also still open online, and are continuing to offer delivery for clients.
The Wee Book Inn is another favorite among locals, regardless of whether they prefer it’s Whyte Ave or Jasper Ave locations. Regular clients will know that Edmonton’s premier used bookstore has the best vintage finds (another way you can shop local, but make it vintage). While both locations are now open with reduced hours, they are still open online offering unique packages of specially curated items from their shelves.
Open now to the public, you can also peruse the shelves of Mandolin Books in the Highlands neighborhood. Over on 124 St., you might also drop by The Prints and the Paper, who have an excellent selection of fun weird books and writing paraphernalia!
Stay Connected and Read
While staying in or participating in physical distantancing this Summer, you’ll have a ton of free time to get reading, or to immerse yourself in a new novel, biography, or even reading-based hobby. Why not try to pick up a new book on cooking or co-gardening while making the effort to safely support these businesses while committing to your own literacy and education? You can also be sure to share what you’re looking forward to reading in the near future by using our hashtag #LocalGoodnessYEG today.
Putting on my English teacher hat again, I want to remind us all that a good read has the power to inspire, heal, and change the world. At the beginning of these adventures comes a simple quick trip to the bookstore. So, get that Summer reading list ready, and connect with the book sellers in your community.