IBW2021: Samantha King on magical booksellers

To celebrate Independent Bookshop week, Samantha King – author of the upcoming novel The Secret Keeper’s Daughter, joins us to talk about the exception to her goal-focused approach to shopping… bookshops!

The quirkier, the better

Truth be told, I’m not a very enthusiastic shopper. Retail excursions tend to be strictly goal-focused: I identify my desired product, then I’m in and out before you can say, ‘Next, please!’ The only exception is bookshops – and the quirkier, the better.  

The Open Book in Richmond is a perfect example. If you can’t find what you want in this TARDIS-like treasure trove, they’ll order it; if you’re not sure what you want, they’ll have a dozen suggestions! The Osterley Bookshop is the same: a used bookstore I can’t resist popping into after walking our dog in nearby Osterley Park. It’s literally packed to the rafters with every kind of book, with the tantalizing bonus of curios and bric-a-brac. I can’t resist a bookshop that also sells knick-knacks!  

Escape the everyday

But the pleasure isn’t just in the purchase; after all, I grew up in libraries. What I love about bookshops is the chance to escape everyday life into a peaceful haven where I always come away feeling enriched, not only by the books I’ve bought, but also by the sheer enjoyment of browsing, absorbing, almost inhaling the joy of reading. It’s oxygen for the soul. 

I’ve always been a reader. From a young age, books felt like magic to me. I could get lost in other places, disappear into other people’s lives . . . become someone else, just for a little while. After becoming a parent, I couldn’t wait to pass on this magic key to an enchanted kingdom where my children could enjoy their own adventures of the imagination. Gleefully, I introduced them to old friends and watched their little hands forage through bookshops to discover new ones – authors whose stories, whose voices still live in their heads. Because once read, a good book stays with us for ever. 

The magic of booksellers

Being an author myself is a dream come true, and what I value most is my books finding readers who will love my stories. Booksellers are the wizards who make that happen, and when my debut novel took its first tentative steps into the world, Waterstones in Richmond hand-sold every single copy! My third novel is set in Suffolk, which gave me the perfect excuse for yet more visits to the gorgeous Southwold Books and Aldeburgh Bookshop, who always offer such a warm welcome – and to eat fish and chips on the beach afterwards, of course! 

It’s the personal touch: that’s what bookshops offer. It’s bumping into the love of your life at the supermarket, rather than meeting via internet dating. Yes, I regularly buy books online, but nothing beats the thrill of perusing actual shelves, fingertips trailing across colourful spines, my eye caught by an intriguing title or cover, seducing me with unexpected gems – a knowledgeable bookseller on hand to reassure me that I’ve picked a goodie!  

Independent bookshops are run by readers, for readers, and I value and celebrate their passion, knowledge, hard work and dedication in carrying the flame for authors, and passing on the reading habit that has so inspired me, my family and lucky generations to come. 

Read the rest of the IBW2021 series here. Samantha King’s new novel The Secret Keeper’s Daughter is coming soon.

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