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A love letter to bookshops

With the loosening of lockdown restrictions allowing all shops, stores, and close contact services to reopen from the 26th of April, it will be hard to not be overwhelmed by the amount of retail therapy that will soon be available. Above all, I am most looking forward to getting inside a bookshop again. 

Online shopping for books feels so much different from physical book shopping. The thrill of finding a gem in the shelves or seeing that book you’ve been desperately wanting to read is hard to replicate. Browsing at a bookshop has become a sort of ritual: following a route to cover all ground, finding your favourite author, and trying to keep the empty promise of not spending money on more books.

But even more, a book shop is always a place that I feel comfortable going in alone or with a group. Books in their very essence are a form of direct communication from one person to you. When we read, we consume the fruits of another person’s words. It is a deeply personal connection and insight that we get when we read; it reveals so much more than what could’ve been conceived in a vacuum. What I’ve managed to boil it down to myself is that a bookshop is not only a house of books, but a home to human interaction. We need these many encounters to receive revelations and imagine our own ideas.

One bookshop which understands this is Lighthouse here in Edinburgh. Lighthouse is a women-led and queer-owned community bookshop. Looking at their curatorship, it is easy to agree that they are proudly activists, intersectional, feminists, anti-racists, LGBTQ+ allies, and a community space. They carry a large range of titles from many genres! As they state on their site: “from politics, history, fiction and travel writing to Children’s books, crafts and cookery. We are particularly passionate about radical, left wing and Scottish politics, intersectional feminism, revolutionary history, environmentalism, LGBT+ writing, poetry and translated fiction”. They fully deserve the title of Scotland’s Best Independent Bookshop, which they won in 2020.

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What sets Lighthouse apart from other bookshops is the diversity they have set out in their store. Their curatorship exemplifies real diversity of thought and expression whilst sharing voices from the margins. As someone who comes from a country where any literature containing a homosexual kiss is censored or given a 21+ age restriction, this bookshop was (and still is) a huge deal to me. 

The countless connections I have at Lighthouse is why I keep coming back. From browsing queer romances with a friend, to searching solo for my next read, Lighthouse has graciously hosted a myriad of exchanges. There is an ineffable warmth that has continued to radiate from that shop since the very beginning of lockdown. I cannot wait to return safely and have those interactions once again. 

Image: Molly McCracken for The Student