Behind the scenes in the bookshop.

bookshop Ruth & AnnieI’m unpacking books with Annie.  Can this really be work?  Feels like Christmas to me.  I breath in that special massed-book atmosphere and can’t wipe the grin off my face.

Make no mistake, this is my summer holiday.  We’ve already had a swim in the Moray Firth, and a ramble with our dogs along the marshy shoreline.  Those were good, very good, especially that dip in the invigorating North Sea.

The highlight though, is my book day.  I’m a little old for work-experience, but offering to help gets me close. One of my not-so-secret fantasy-occupations has always been bookseller.  If there’s one thing more tantalising than browsing shelves, it’s got to be glimpses of well-stocked store-cupboards behind the counter.  Who knows what treasures wait there. Can this be bettered?

Oh yes, when a box, or bag, comes in for unpacking.  Stories spill out.  ‘No one,’ says Ruth, ‘offers to sell books to the bookshop without telling us why.’  I think of the boxes I’ve delivered to charity shops over this last year, and how I’ve carefully explained about my neighbour moving house, or my aunt, clearing space.

Ruth is deftly sorting a box.  She turns each book over and flicks through the pages, looking for damage, not quality of story or writing. She knows what’s popular, I don’t, and there are shelves and shelves of books on the other side of the counter.  I’m drawn to the spines on the vintage shelves.  As I’m dealing in alternative-me scenarios, I should say that in that world, these are what my walls would be lined with instead of wallpaper.

book shelves

I’m tempted, but resist them as too much responsibility.  It’s not that I don’t look after my books, exactly.  But I don’t take care of them the way Ruth and Annie do the Logie Steading Bookshop, which has no trace of spider-webs in the corners, or dust.  When I return home and notice how unkempt my shelves are, I spend an hour improving them.  It won’t last, though for a few days it’s good for my soul to see them all gleaming.

bookshopMeanwhile, will you just look at all those books?  I wasn’t looking for Narnia, but there’s something about an open door that demands I step through.  It’s no wonder that by the time I drifted back to the desk I’d gathered a heap of books.  How long did it take? I’ve no idea, time lost all meaning.  Which is just how it should be, isn’t it?

This is all so unlikely for my alternative-bookseller-self, who I can’t help feeling a little worried about. I suspect she’s liable to spend a lot of time reading her stock when she should be concentrating on customers.




26 thoughts on “Behind the scenes in the bookshop.

  1. That was lovely to read, Cath. What an evocative account of your reaction to being ‘behind the scenes’ with us. I did notice the grin and understand the joy you felt on opening a new bag or box. To a bibliophile, it is indeed like Christmas arrives every day. I still feel like that, even if my own responses are a little summer-jaded at the moment. I’m lucky to have been given this chance of a second career which means I spend my days bathed in books. Thank you for reminding me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bookstores are magical places, aren’t they? I love the way the doorways invite us in and we get lost in all those stories. Entering Narnia is a great comparison. This post makes me want to high tail it to the nearest bookstore. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I don’t dare go in them any more. All my shelves are full and so is the loft. I got rid of a hundred books at least earlier on this year and cannot understand how those shelves can still be full – it works like magic. I couldn’t live without my bookshelves…even though I can’t stay awake to read them any more! Your blog made me wish I was still working in libraries and reading and buying thousands of books every year! It doesn’t work like that in libraries now though – they send you the books THEY think you want…

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    • I wouldn’t be without my bookshelves, either. I know what you mean about books though, every time I take a book off to read, and think there should be a gap, it’s instantly filled from one of the stacks waiting patiently for their space.


  4. When I was an A Level student my mum gave me a clothing allowance. But I was a tech student and all I needed was a pair of trainers, two pairs of jeans and a couple of jumpers. So I spent hours in the bookshops in Worcester – there were several good ones, I remember.

    And I developed a thirst for knowledge.

    But when I went to university, all I had to wear were jeans and an old jumper. And some filthy trainers, as I recall.

    I asked my mother to pay for a change of image. Well as you can expect she got quite shirty with me and wanted to know where all the money had gone. I hope she doesn’t read this, because to this day she hasn’t been told the truth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wonderful. Do you think she’d still disapprove?

      Books seem to me to be a fairly forgivable alternative to clothes – when it comes to spending at any rate, which isn’t to say you should create outfits from pages of a novel, though I do think it might be quite intriguing to have a Pride & Prejudice outfit, or a Diary of a Nobody suit. It could be a way of codifying mood or inclination.

      So tomorrow, I’m going to wear ‘Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter’.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh oh oh, how I love bookshops! One of my dream jobs is librarian. I think it’d be fun to tailor reading programs for different age groups to get them excited about various genres and authors.
    As for bookshops, there was one I still regret not being able to explore, but we were pressed for time. It’s in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in….shoot, which town was it…it was a college town, I remember that. It was a HUGE building, the ground floor full of various smoking and incense items, and the second floor packed with utility shelves packed with books. The problem: the books were not organized. At. All. Genres, authors, all over the place. If you had an entire day, you could maybe walk through them, but alas, we didn’t have all day. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been in bookshops like that Michigan one. The organised ones I loved, but I’ve been in a couple of the random types. I thought it would be heaven, but after a couple of hours my head was throbbing and my neck was cricked from trying to read horizontal book-spines – there were so many books they had to stack them flat instead of upright. I only found one book, then we gave up and went for a long walk by the river, which was stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I just came across this post of yours, Cath. The thread made me smile. I share the passion too.
    We had hundreds of books before we emigrated from Liverpool, but we sold/gave away lots of them. Happily we’ve filled many book shelves in our new home and recently put up some more. There’s a wonderful second-hand book shop right on the beach, so we go for lunch on a weekend and then come back with another armful of books. That’s not to mention all the books on my Kindle I have yet to read. I have thought of volunteering to be one of the ‘friends’ of our local library, so as to get first dibs on the books they sell every few months… so far I’ve resisted though.

    Liked by 1 person

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