How Books and Bookshops Improve Our Mental Health – And Why We Must Protect Them

Yves here. Books, bookstores, and libraries don’t need much of a sales pitch for NC readers. And I have to say, it would be really nice if I could ever find the time to sit down with a book. And I’m not surprised about the mental health bennies. When I was under pre-exam cramming pressure, I’d repair to a house library or Widener, which felt like a monastery with its uneven floors, narrow aisles, and tiny desks under the windows in the musty stacks. But the author singles out bookshops for her fond memories of working with a sympathetic owner and curious customers.

By Lydia Smith, a freelance journalist with a focus on health, mental health, wellbeing and human rights who writes for national newspapers and magazines. Follow her on twitter @Lyd_Carolina. Originally published at openDemocracy

A decade ago I was renting a tiny room in a small flat in north London. I had moved to the capital to study for a Master’s degree and I was living with strangers, while working two part-time jobs to bring in some money.

For one of my jobs, I worked in a pub down the road. The work was fine – waitressing and pulling pints – but the hours were long. The manager would frequently harass the female staff with inappropriate comments and groping, but there was nobody to complain to. Over time, I became increasingly anxious and reduced my hours, finding extra work in a nearby independent bookshop.

A couple of days a week, I would categorise old books and add them to an online system, as well as minding the shop when the owner – a kind if eccentric man – was out. The shop was a mess. In each room, piles of books rose from floor to ceiling, which made moving around a challenge. Layers of years-old dust coated everything. In so many ways, it was perfect.

The hours passed quickly and quietly, and the stress of my studies and my other job began to dissipate. From time to time, the owner would dig out books relevant to my literature course and give them to me to read at lunchtime in the shop’s back garden, with the neighbour’s cat beside me. When I felt anxious, I would delve into fiction books and disappear into different worlds, far from my own.

Working in the bookshop made a huge, positive difference to my mental health at a time when I felt overwhelmed. Between doing busy shifts at the pub and my studies, I was able to spend a few quiet hours a week reading, organising books and interacting with browsing customers, after which I felt calmer and far more able to cope with other stresses. For me, it made a world of difference – but these opportunities are under threat.

Booksellers in the UK and the US have reported an upturn in sales and visitors this year, but not all independent bookshops are surviving the rise of Amazon. Last year, several iconic independent bookshops in the UK closed, including Shropshire’s Wenlock Books and Camden Lock Books in north London. In December, Holt Books – once named one of Britain’s top 50 bookshops – announced it would not be renewing its licence this year, blaming escalating rental costs and competition from internet shopping.

The decline of the high street is nothing new, but in the face of a growing mental health crisis, recognising the positive impact that reading can have on mental health – and therefore bookshops and libraries – is crucial.

So why is a good read good for us at a much deeper level?

There’s something very special about being in a bookshop. Unlike other shops, they and libraries are calmer spaces where anyone can lose themselves in a story. And while you can browse millions of books online, there’s something irreplaceable about going into a shop and asking a book lover to guide us on the journey.

It may be less convenient, but it’s much more mindful and restorative to search through a bookshop to find what you’re looking for – or locate an unexpected gem. As author and mental health advocate Matt Haig wrote on twitter: “Aren’t bookshops wonderfully strange, sitting there with quiet menace, as if they were just a shop and not an entry point to 30,000 different universes?”

In fact there’s a wealth of evidence to support the idea that books can help to boost good mental health. ‘Bibliotherapy,’ a term first coined by American essayist Samuel Crothers in a 1916 issue of Atlantic Monthly, means the art of using literature and reading as a healing activity. It’s widely accepted as a way to enhance wellbeing.

In 2013, a study published in the journal Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy examined the impact of reading on 96 patients with mild depression. Those given a book to read saw an improvement in their symptoms. Another study by the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68% – and is far more effective than other relaxing activities including listening to music or going for a walk (though don’t let that put you off…).

Another study from The New School for Social Research in New Yorkfound that reading fiction improves something called ‘Theory of Mind’ – essentially, our ability to empathise with others and understand that other people hold different beliefs and desires to our own. Given the challenges we face and the depth of polarisation in society over politics, opening our minds to other thoughts, views and cultures is important. This has a direct and positive impact on our collective mental health too.

Katerina Georgiou, a counsellor and psychotherapist, says there are many reasons why books can help improve your wellbeing, but one of the most important may be due to being “fully immersed in the here and now.”

“Fiction in particular focuses you on an altogether different narrative to the one you may habitually have in your day to day life,” she told me in recent interview. “A fictional story typically follows a clear story arc of triumph over adversity, the overcoming of obstacles and an end resolution where balance is restored. This can tap into universal truths which give a reader a sense of meaning, connectedness, familiarity and hope.”

Characters can also become role models or offer greater insight and empathy, putting us in touch with complex feelings that are sometimes difficult to articulate alone. “Seeing one’s own complexities given voice on a page can be a healing experience in the recognition that something seemingly so personal to you is shared,” Georgiou explains.

We often read literature for the feelings we hope to get from it – which might mean an experience of aliveness, love or fear followed by relief. “In this way we can feel feelings we might not often otherwise experience, depending on the way life currently is,” says John-Paul Davis, spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapists. “For someone with depression or anxiety, for example, the feeling of love may not be as much a part of life as they’d like, but they can feel it at the turn of a page in a book.”

For so many of us, loneliness and isolation are byproducts of mental health issues, but reading can help. “When we’re in emotional distress, we can also feel that others somehow seem to be better at life than us and that we’re alone in our experience,” Davis adds.

“Through reading, we see that all humans, throughout time, have had similar needs and wants and struggle in similar ways to meet them. This shared experience helps us feel much more part of this wider interconnected body of humanity, which is great for our mental health and wellbeing.”

Bookshops and libraries also give us access to a world of human knowledge and experience, showing us new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. Non-fiction books exist on all subjects from resume writing to gardening and mindfulness, expanding a while range of opportunities for people to educate themselves and improve their understanding of the world – and their capacities to act in it effectively.

Amazon and other online retailers will continue to slash book prices in the hope that consumers will prize cost and convenience over everything else. But slashing prices will never replace the joy of finding a second-hand novel filled with annotations from its previous owner, who needed the book just as much as you.

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40 comments

  1. Pespi

    A good friend of mine manages a large independent book store in New York City. From what he tells me, they’re getting smashed on both sides. People regularly complain that amazon sells a book for less, and also complain that they don’t have every obscure book ever written. The publishers have relationships that let them force bookstores to take books they know won’t sell, and they market for most of what we think of as books, say literary fiction, is shrinking, and the people allowed by publishers to get their books out is shrinking.

    This is a vicious cycle and I have no idea how to fix it without resorting to forcing people to buy and read books at gunpoint, or to turn off the internet for good.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      There are bookstores right now today which are staying in bussiness without forcing people to buy books at gunpoint and without turning off the internet for good.

      Who exactly is going to force people to buy books at gunpoint? Also, I do not accept turning off the internet for good.

      Someone is doing something right now today to keep alive the bookstores which are currently alive. Who is already doing it and what are they doing? If we knew the answers to both of those questions, we could get more people to do more of those two things in more places.

      And that is how more of us could keep more bookstores alive in more places.

      Reply
  2. John A

    In late 2016, I visited friends in New Jersey. One day we went to a large shopping mall and had a couple of books in mind I would like to buy. Amazingly to me, there was not a single bookstore in the entire mall. This week, I am back in Stockholm for a few days. There are still bookstores all round the city, admittedly most chain stores, but all well populated with customers. This time of year, there is always a big book sale in Sweden, mostly hardback books slashed in price just before the paperback version comes out, plus old classics like Strindberg etc. There are online book stores in Sweden, but no Amazon, as yet.

    Reply
  3. Amateur Socialist

    Synchronicity – we are in the last phase of a 1700 mile relocation from Bastrop TX to Brattleboro VT.

    During a visit a few years ago we noticed that Brattleboro had multiple thriving bookstores. All of Bastrop county (about 20 minutes east of Austin) doesn’t have one. The existence of bookstores was a key consideration in our decision to move.

    Reply
    1. chuck roast

      I buy rare books now and then. Abebooks kind of rules the roost in the online market. It is an Amazon subsidiary. I used to go around them by finding the book I wanted from the Abebook seller and then calling the bookseller up and getting his address. I’d then promise to send the check for delivery of the book. Now it’s difficult to find address, phone, e-mail etc. of the bookseller on line. So, you almost gotta go through Abebooks. Well, a rare bookseller in a nearby city just opened up a second location here. I’m looking for a rare 1930 signed first edition. I have cruised Abebooks, but I’ll see if this new guy can get it for me. I’m happy to pay a small share-the-wealth premium…as long as he promises not to deal with Amazon.

      Reply
      1. Mark Alexander

        As an alternative to Abebooks (aka Amazon), try Alibris. I’ve had good luck with them for the most part. (I am not a seller there and am not being paid to say this.)

        Reply
        1. Feelinthebern

          I do all my online book purchasing at alibris. Have for years. I love that I can get old out of print books and everything new too. It’s all Independent operators. Good customer service as well. Amazon free and loving it!

          Reply
      2. Carey

        biblio.com works best for me, if I have to buy a book online; pretty sure the others
        mentioned have been PE’d. addall.com is a good aggregator site, as well.

        Reply
  4. Winston Smith

    Lucky to live in a city with two great independent bookstores. Great places to hang out on a rainy day and the best way to shop for books. Get off your screens in the evening and pick up a book ,you will be calmer and sleep better.
    Avoid Bezos Inc if at all possible!

    Reply
  5. Jesper

    I love bookstores and libraries. Quiet places, polite people, plenty of interesting things to browse through and from time to time the joy of discovering something new. For that reason I don’t even ask bookstores to order in something for me, I’ve now been waiting for years for them to take in a writer whose writings I usually enjoy. So instead I am discovering new writers, it is part of the journey and the journey can be more pleasant than the destination :)
    The only kind of books I’d consider to be ordering online would be books that I for some reason or other was forced to buy. For the rest I’d go into a bookstore. I suppose that might be similar for people who are forced to buy a book – the ones who do not want to read it but for some reason or other have to – and they want the buying experience to be as short and cheap as possible.
    Times are changing, libraries are changing as well. Possibly libraries are changing to get more people in, possibly those changes will (or will not) get more people in and instead drive away the ones who liked them for what they were. Ah well, the more things change the more things stay the same (or however the saying goes), vinyl is apparently making a come-back so I have some hope that book-stores and libraries will be around for some time yet :)

    Reply
  6. Martin Oline

    I opened a used and collectible bookstore in Des Moines, Iowa in 2000 and it lasted five years. Without the kind support of the building owner it would not have been possible. It was not a business but more of an avocation. I did not sell books on the Internet but only to locals, thinking I could sell the same book multiple times by keeping it in the area. I am sorry to say that having a bookstore at that time would be similar to opening a video rental store today. The good part was it was a relaxing thing to do (except for the customers offering 50 cents for books that cost me $1+) and there will never be a shortage of books for me to read now.

    Reply
  7. Carla

    We have three independent bookstores and two public libraries within walking distance of our home. In my book, this makes us a very wealthy neighborhood!

    For those without access to local bookstores, as a welcome alternative to the atrocious Amazon, I recommend http://www.betterworldbooks.com for a broad selection of new and used volumes with free shipping. A portion of every Better World Books purchase supports literacy programs worldwide.

    Reply
  8. proximity1

    We’re in really, very, very, very big trouble–socially, culturally. And no one at Facebook, Amazon.com, Twitter, or Google has any intention of making a big deal of this present trouble. Instead, these companies’ fortunes have been built upon this moral decline and they show every indication of doing more and more of the same to the increasing destruction of the remaining vestiges of cultural life worth having.

    A relative handful of “brick & motar” bookshops selling new or used books will not change this picture significantly.

    Reading per se, now touted as mere psychological solace and bookshops, as quaint and, of course, overlooked, ‘refuges’ for refugees–people othewise resigned from battle– in a world which has somehow become an even more inhumane and freakish Dark Age of ignorance and stupidity than was the last Dark Age. That is just disheartening at a time when, above all, we have to try to summon some better courage and do that in collectively large numbers. There is more than just a bit about NC which is intentionally, I think, part of that prospect.

    But, this stuff is little more than some comforting sentimentalist rot and, beyond that, is far, far, too little, too late. Roger Scruton explains why in his book, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture (1998)

    The broken, demoralized and moronized person might or might not turn to reading. There is no particular reason to suppose that, in this culture, in these circumstances, he or she should do that rather than turning to any of dozens of other distractions–gardening, cooking, sewing, fishing, tinkering with automobiles, bicycles or motorcycles, woodworking, etc. One is just as likely to turn to film or video archives instead of books for escape–and that is what is being described above; escape.

    When you’ve finished your Jane Austen or Margaret Atwood novel, the world from which you’d been temporarily distracted shall return in force, harsher and more bizarre; and nothing from your reading shall have made any of it more comprehensible to you.

    In this culture, reading, as some sort of rehabilitative therapy is akin to relying on Band-Aids ™ to treat cancer. The same could be said about other current escapist fads–meditation, “mindfulness”, veganism, etc.

    A pleasant, sunny beach is dotted with people enjoying a day at the seaside. Their minds are on a thousand different things as they play or sun-bathe or take naps. Meanwhile, miles out to sea, a fissure in the earth’s crust hundreds of feet beneath the sea-bed groans and cracks, releasing megatons of energy.

    At the beach there’s a sudden and very special calmness and then the water’s edge starts abruptly receding from the usual shore-line. Rather than quickly flooding back, it recedes further and further from shore. A Tsunami has just announced itself.

    Reply
    1. Momo

      So put the book down and join Extinction Rebellion.
      (oh and as an aside, quite what is escapist about veganism?

      Reply
    2. sierra7

      I started really seriously “reading” more than 60 years ago, mostly history. I’ve never stopped and have an enormous knowledge of how my country works vs/vs so many others.
      Not putting them down. It’s just that without serious reading for knowledge I wouldn’t have a clue as to what my country or others around the world have done or are doing.
      I’ve also read fiction, true crime, law, government, culture, financial markets (which has given me a deep insight into what is currently happening with our viciously out of control “markets” today) and so many other subjects.
      All have helped me in understanding my life surroundings and understanding of my fellow humans.
      I could live in libraries.

      Reply
    1. KLG

      Very sad. I remember your bookstore from one short holiday in and around Traverse City about 15 years ago.

      Reply
  9. Appleseed

    An acquaintance recently told me that he and his girlfriend take one night a week to hang out and read. After work, they eat a quick meal, then head out. Sometimes to bookstores ( alas, a chain like B&N or HPB) or the public library. He said it is the highlight of their week. My wife and I used to take road trips to antiquarian bookstores. It was great fun. Each store had character. Met wonderful people, discovered treasures, and had some adventures. Each acquisition has a story behind it that we recall when re-reading, or even just looking at the book on our sagging bookshelves. By comparison, online shopping is mechanical and cold and does little to support convivial community/ economic/cultural life. The musty local used bookstores are a thing of the past.

    Reply
  10. Michael

    “”…and nothing from your reading shall have made any of it more comprehensible to you. “”

    Disagree. Fine writing shows just how much noise the modern world dishes up daily and why its OK to ignore it. Reboot yourself, turn a page and enjoy life.

    Here in sunny San Diego we have mini neighborhood libraries affixed to posts in front yards offering books the owner is passing on and a place to deposit yours. Cute little houses with shake roofs like a bird house but full of books.

    Reply
    1. proximity1

      You’re welcome to disagree but I wonder what makes you think that–whatever “fine writing” is or means to you and however beneficial its effects–great numbers of your fellow citizens are reading such literature.

      I have a strong hunch that the overwhelming majority of what Americans are reading falls into one of three broad categories: one, best-selling (“space-ship” & extra-terrestrial worlds) science-fiction (virtually all of it written since Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke or Robert A. Heinlein died), two, formulaic “Bodice-ripper” romance novels or “gothic”/”horror” genre-writing: demon-filled fiction about zombies, vampires, or its neighbor, retro-Feudal worlds of sword-fighters and damsels in distress–the “literary” equivalent of “Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter” (Neil Gaiman, and books shelved in that same section of the bookshop) ; police-crime detection, murder, suspense espionage and mysteries/thrillers (Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, Lilian Jackson Braun, Len Deighton, Lee Child, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Sanders.) and, three, periodicals (magazines), cookbooks, travel literature and self-help and house-life improvement works.

      Yes, my comment mentioned Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood but in fact I didn’t mention these authors because I thought that a great many Americans today are reading them and, still less, because I considered either of them as examples of authors of fine, let alone great, literature.

      None of the writing of any of the afore-mentioned authors poses any moral or intellectual counter-weight to modern culture’s juggernaut of emptiness. Indeed, the vast majority of this literature is itself a reflection and reiteration of that emptiness. A pointless, basically meaningless, existence is either granted, taken-for-granted, heroic or all of these at once.

      It strikes me that modern fiction is generally either based in pre-Enlightenment worlds of the most superficial of feudalist-based “faith” or in post-Enlightenment worlds in which the present and future have simply renounced faith itself of any kind as ridiculously passé.

      None of this means either that everything written from the advent of the novel to the latter half of the 20th century was all brilliant (in my opinion, Charles Dickens was basically a hack writer) or, on the contrary, was utterly devoid of literary merit (Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner weren’t “mere” or “hack” writers but not all of their work was equally masterful). Nor does it mean that today it is impossible to find anyone under the age of 30 outside of university-assigned readers who is reading an American, British, French, Russian or Italian novelist (man or woman) who lived and wrote between 1780 and 1950. But all such people taken and added together amount to a vanishingly small part of the contemporary reading public. Some people under-thirty, with no course requirement driving them, do pick up and read such writers. These are people who comprise the exceptional about our times.

      Reply
      1. Titus

        I own a used &rare bookstore and have since 1976. We have 4 full time and 2 part time employees – all with healthcare. We do alright. Everyone earns a living wage; the rare book guys do rather well. We repair books as well. Plenty of customers. I have to say the argument as to what makes for great literature and what doesn’t is in the mind of the beholder as much in the book. Anything ‘great’ by definition is rare, such is the nature of talent. I’m not sure one can call the Odyssey great if 1.5 Billion Chinese never heard of it. Or having read it don’t think to highly of it. We do have a great Chinese section in Chinese. Same with French. Same with a lot. Some books are great simply because of how they feel or the beauty of the binding. We encourage people to stay and read or have something to eat or drink from our deli/wine bar. It is a life.

        Reply
    2. Mel

      Some people might think that “fine writing” means some kind of frilly decorative aestheticism. So I also disagree. You want to understand how the world can be nasty, try some Edith Wharton — New Year’s Day, for a condensed dose. Ditto Mrs. Oliphant — The Sorceress echoes the Wharton piece. Both trenchantly and sympathetically expressed.
      Unfortunately, both of these are available from Project Gutenberg, so they might not help local bookstores any.

      Reply
    3. Carey

      >Disagree. Fine writing shows just how much noise the modern world dishes up daily and why its OK to ignore it. Reboot yourself, turn a page and enjoy life.

      Thanks so much for this comment.

      Reply
  11. Hayek's Heelbiter

    More virtue signalling.

    I am an American expat author living in London. For the past 18 months I’ve been trying to sell 1/3 of my library – nearly 2,000 volumes, including many fairly rare non-fiction and academic works, cataloged and graded to conservative ABE standards, with chips, foxing, shelfwear, etc. carefully noted. Retail cost works out to about $15,000 US.

    I’ve advertised everywhere, contacted scores of used bookstores that say they buy libraries, and even handed out flyers down the Charing Cross Road shops. A few people wanted to cherry pick the collections. Otherwise, nada.

    I lowered the price to £1,500, and the only takers I had were bulk buyers who would pay 50p for selected tomes that they would self for £7.50.

    People LOVE the idea of books. Unfortunately, book themselves take up space disproportionate to their information density, in large quantities they have a distinctive smell that many might find unappealing, and perhaps worst of all they depreciate at an extraordinary rate.

    And it’s the used book business dirty little secret that charities cherry pick book donations, then pulp the rest. I refuse to let my much loved volumes be churned by a set of cold metallic teeth.

    So they will remain in storage until I move into a bigger space and can restore them to the sanctuary of a bookshelf..

    Reply
    1. John A

      Sadly, Charing Cross Road is not what it was in the days of Helene Hanff and her book 84 Charing Cross Road. Most of the antiquarian bookstores have gone and the rest are maybe one step up from junk yards. The bookstore sector was yet another victim of Thatcher. Before her, books were sold with a recommended retail price and all stores had to sell them for that price. Thatcher abolished that leaving pricing to ‘Mr Market’. Mr Market prefers blockbusters and misery memoirs, Jamie Oliver, 50 shades of grey etc. The supermarkets have muscled in on books. Now, if you want any book that is not super hyped and marketed to the max and flavour of the marketeering month, you have to order online and most of the charming, quirky bookstores have gone to the grave in England

      Reply
  12. Off The Street

    When in Pasadena, take in Vroman’s. They have been bookselling for over a century, and their longevity in car-happy SoCal borders on miraculous. Their wine bar is named 1894 in honor of the opening year.

    Reply
  13. Mel

    If we could find a way to monetize quiet and politeness.. it needs to flow the frenetic amounts of cash that will keep the commercial real estate industry happy.
    Personally, of course, I have spent wonderful half-hours in used bookstores, and I’ve found amazing treasures before my eyes, in my hands, and into my mind. I would never have noticed these in the periscope-view of my browser window.

    On topic, but completely off tone, check out the first season or two of the TV comedy series Black Books with Dylan Moran. Wicked.

    Reply
  14. JohnnyX

    Don’t forget the community based, non commercial, Little Free Libraries that appear like toadstools on strategic corners in neighborhoods.
    A place to borrow, or leave your unwanted or great books to share with the community. They often morph into places where people leave free items, such as dishes, tools, boxes of nails etc.

    Reply
  15. proximity1

    It interesting to notice and compare the relative success or the lack of it in this use of brick-&-mortar bookshops as places of –as “palaces of”–people’s resort to and taking of solace.

    Amazon.com dispenses no “solace”. There is no place for solace in its business model and no one “goes there” to find this solace, The customers go instead to browse; and, more important still, many of the browsers do what Amazon.com is counting on them to do: they buy books (or whatever it may be that they’re looking for at Amazon.com).

    Brick-&-Mortar bookshops can’t stop their customers from coming in and taking their fill of solace and then leaving without buying anything. But if they can’t get these customers to actually buy a book or several books, they’re not going to be able to remain in business and dole out the solace, either.

    With each purchase from the one or the other type of vendor, the customer is making a powerful statement about the kind of culture he or she prefers to see survive (and perhaps thrive).

    Reply
  16. aletheia33

    silent reading gatherings are now a thing, across the USA. people do crave time spent quietly with others, away from the internet, and, in this case, reading.

    for one thing, people still love to garden, and other meaningful crafts and hobbies do continue to thrive. there is also a movement to set up sofas in the street and invite people to sit awhile and converse. a relative in boston tells me that among the young it’s now considered cool to read actual books and carry actual notebooks while riding the T.

    so instead of despairing, let’s do what we can to help others get enough education and yes, leisure, to enjoy their lives with better awareness of what is truly rewarding. there’s more of a culture of this in europe, but here it has always been about the benjamins and nothing else. maybe the end of empire will bring some balance.

    hope this link works–if not, there are many such pages out there reporting on the phenom.

    Reply
  17. Jeremy Grimm

    When the subject of books comes up everyone discusses books of literature. Literature is only one aspect of the knowledge and culture books can contain. Books — monographs — also contain compendiums of what is known about Science, Mathematics, and Technology, and capture the way of thinking and reasoning of the great practitioners of those arts. Lost literature will be replaced with new literature, whether in books, electronic media, or the words of storytellers. But lost Science, Mathematics, and Technology will not be so easily recaptured. Books are ephemera by the metric of ages but electronic media are thin smoke immediately lost in first winds of time. Where will electronic media reside when the electric power is gone, and the computers die and no more chips can be made?

    Amazon is given free-rein to destroy brick-and-mortar commerce on main street, in our malls, and even in our great cities. Big-Oil is subsidized to burn up an irreplaceable resource and shift our Earth’s once temperate climate toward chaos. Our Education systems must be thanked for their part in destroying curiosity, imagination, and love for reading. Bookstores and libraries, printed books and the printed word are collateral damage in the great war Humankind makes upon itself.

    Some form of the printed word remains the most durable of all means to preserve what remains of our Knowledge and Culture for the times after the Collapse. Many projections place the time of limits to our present way-of-life near the mid-point of the present century.

    Reply
    1. Titus

      And then there is the fire, water, cold, & mold to deal with in my store. Not to mention the shear weight of all those books. Digital or printed all have attributes some good some bad. As to the state of the world, it is going to get far worse before it gets far better. Either we will have a long emergency or chaos. That is up to us. If it is to be the “jackpot” well then it doesn’t really matter much about books, expect to the rats who will eat the bindings.

      Reply
      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I believe you are wrong. Books and Knowledge could make the difference between the mere survival and living. Books and Knowledge could make the difference between mere survival and some continuance of our progress in further learning and knowledge. While it is true that fire, water, cold, & mold damage and ruin books and books are neither light, nor small when kept in numbers … but name any other form for preserving Knowledge which might have some chance of surviving for 500 years. Books on special papers can last a very long time. I am hopeful that books printed on papers made from plastics might survive longer and withstand some of the ravages you described. I have only recently become aware of modern UV light cured inks. I am hopeful they might match or exceed the projected lifetime of plastic paper.

        Reply
  18. Ben Oldfield

    I learnt to read late and not at school as I skipped a year as possible consequence of this I became a speed reader. Reading has got me through working in Africa, for a mad boss in Ireland and in a remote irish cottage. I am currently building bookcases for over 6,000 books, in a house extension built specially for the books, most of which are still in packing cases after 20 years. I am impatient to re read some of these books that I remember with love.

    I am currently living in Ireland and the local Irish library is limited in science fiction and fantasy which I favour and of course they can not afford to buy new books. Ordering books on line is fine for books by authors you know but is no good for finding new good authors. During my Christmas visits to England 1 visit the second-hand bookshops in Hay-on-Wye, there were some 20 books shops but this has dropped to about 15. I spend 3 to 5 days looking for fiction and non-fiction books and would recommend a visit. I also make time to visit book shops in London for books issued during the year.

    Reply
  19. Wukchumni

    Linda’s Used Books has been in Visalia since 1982 and is the best of the bunch locally. I like the Friends of the Whittier Library book store in SoCal near my mom, great selection and most everything is a buck or 2, they might try and get a tenner for a complete leather bound Shakespeare set.

    One of the cabin owners in our community has a library that dominates the interior, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    I usually take a book to read on week+ backpack trips, for when you get up as early in the a.m. as i’m wont to do, a headlamp works wonders.

    You shouldn’t leave excess food in bear boxes in the backcountry, or really anything else, but if i’m done with a book and I can shed some weight, and shed some insight on somebody else, i’m game.

    I was so taken by B. Traven’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre that I devoured it in 4 days and left it @ Kern hot springs, ha!

    Reply
  20. sierra7

    For those who believe they are “alone” in loving books, join a local book club. If there isn’t one start one.
    We here in the foothills of the Sierras in a small community have 6 clubs, pop. around 4,000 at the most.
    I and another started our club more than 17 years ago and we are still going strong. We meet once a month; we read different kinds of selections. One of the main reasons I belong is that it makes me read books I normally wouldn’t. We have come to realize that the books that we don’t like after reading, we have the most and critical discussions.
    That’s what book clubs do. They bring people together.
    Coffee, tea and homemade pies also contribute along with an occasional glass of wine. It’s common friendship with curiosity mixed in.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Sounds good! I will have to look into what’s around. As for starting things … I lack the confidence to try.

      Reply

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