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By Jack Hannan, MQUP Sales Manager
I began my life in bookselling at Browsers’ Bookshop in Montreal the year Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize, a while ago. There was a postal strike and on my second day, Abe Bonder, who owned Bonder’s Books, drove around to pick up four of us in his station wagon. My uncle Brendan Griffin, John George of Argo Books, Gerald Glass of Academic Bookshop, and I all rode together to the main post office to pick up parcels for our stores. After that, all the booksellers went to lunch, had a beer, and told me stories. There were bookstores everywhere then – Poole’s, Everyman, Diamond Books, Mansfield, Lexus, The Montreal Book Room. And it was like this all over the country.
It’s different now of course. (Who ships by post?) There aren’t bookshops everywhere, which is really a shame. But there are still a lot of great booksellers across the country. They are farther apart, they probably don’t pick each other up for lunch, but there is still that sense of togetherness. As the sales manager for MQUP, I communicate with them often, mostly by email, but if I happen to be in their city, I do stop in to say hello. Many, I’ve never met, but if we have an author visiting their city on a tour, I know who to call to arrange a warm welcome and good event. Sometimes the readings and launches occur on quite short notice (my thanks – and apologies – to Munro Books in Victoria!), sometimes in their own store (McNally Robinson in Saskatoon and Winnipeg are great hosts every season), sometimes they travel off site (32 Books in Vancouver and the Gulf Islands), sometimes both in their store and off site (Ben McNally in Toronto, every season), sometimes even driving to another town (The Bookshelf in Guelph), and then sometimes they’ll figure out a way to do whatever it is you need (Montreal’s Paragraphe Books). Of course there are more that should be named – Yellowknife Book Cellar, Novel Idea in Kingston, Octopus and New Octopus, in Ottawa, and still more …
So, whatever we think is going on in the book world, there are some great bookstores across Canada, the spirit lives, and cheers! May the force be with them.