Love Letter To A Bookshop

When I was eight, I was given a gift by my teacher. A thank-you for a year’s worth of cleaning the board and pushing the chairs under the tables, and emptying the bins. It was also a goodbye gift. A gift that sent me on the way into my next chapter.

It was a book token. My teacher was very wise, and knew this gift was unlike any other. It was a passport to wherever I wanted to go. It was an introduction to new friends, friends who waited for me within the pages of a novel. It was an explanation of the world. A chance to see through different eyes. A way of exploring anything I wanted to, without ever leaving the safety of my armchair. The gift was a ticket to adventure.

I carried my book token around with me. I stared at it. I waited to spend it for as long as I could, because I couldn’t bear to let go of the anticipation (I think I lasted about three days). When I finally exchanged it, the woman in the bookshop didn’t care about units or square footage, or price points. She cared about me, and whether I found the adventure I needed. Because booksellers aren’t just booksellers, they are matchmakers.

There is no other shop like a bookshop. You will never find a shop which has more love for what it sells. You will never find a shop where a sense of community sits quietly on the shelves, and people are encouraged to stay and talk, and share their love of words. You will never find people who care more about your next adventure.

October 8th is #bookshopday. On this day, and every day, we need to support our local bookshops. Along with libraries, they hold the only threads we have left of community. A sense of identity and belonging, which is leaving us so painfully, and in so many different ways. Hold your local bookshop close. Care for it. Support it. Keep it safe. If you lose it, you will lose so very much more than a retail space.

For GOATS AND SHEEP to be shortlisted in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards is truly one of the proudest moments of my life. Many amazing things have happened to me over the past twelve months – things I could never have imagined – but to have my book chosen by booksellers, is something I will always remember. I am thrilled, more than a little overwhelmed, and deeply grateful.

I wish I could find the little girl who stared at the book token (the little girl who propped the book token up next to her bed, so it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up). I wish I could explain it to her. I wish I could go back, and say ‘you’ll never guess what’, and tell her all about this.

All about the amazing adventure she was going to have next.


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To vote in the BAMB awards, click here

To find your local bookshop, click here:

To give the gift of an adventure, click here:


  1. Julie Cordiner
    October 6, 2016 / 7:34 am

    As always, you capture the essence of the issue so precisely and beautifully. I have tears in my eyes from reading your last two paragraphs. Books were my escape from a difficult childhood and it was my English teacher who told me I should go to university. ‘What’s university?’ I said, but took her advice and never looked back. I’m afraid I switched to Classics, though there was plenty of literature there. All authors should appreciate the power their words have to inspire and excite. It’s putting the right words in the right order that’s the challenge!

  2. John Taylor
    October 6, 2016 / 9:52 am

    Jo, this was me too! Our little local library had a tiny children’s section, and I soon had to order in books: they were very patient with my many order forms! But the power of a book token! Now, every time I go to Cardiff, I drop into Wellfield Road Bookshop, where I discovered that children were allowed to buy adult books as well. Where I discovered people like J G Ballard and Ray Bradbury who expanded a twelve-year-old’s mind. And Paul Gallico and Daphne DuMaurier who made me cry. Local bookshops matter!

  3. October 6, 2016 / 9:58 am

    Well deserved . It is a fantastic read. My favourite of the year.

    Best regards

    Steve Asher (a fan!)

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. October 6, 2016 / 10:51 am

    So deserved! And this little piece brought a tear to my eye.

  5. juliathorley
    October 6, 2016 / 11:31 am

    Beautiful. I don’t suppose you can remember what you bought?

  6. October 6, 2016 / 6:33 pm

    This left me a little teary-eyed and wanting to run straight down to my local bookshop. My children get so excited at the £1 book tokens they get from school. We spend hours in waterstones, each child trying to choose which book it will be used on. And we might come home with a few extra..shhhh.

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