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Love your local bookshop?

Women peer through the window of a bookshop in Hay on Wye

Book sales are in rude health, buoyed by reading groups. Yet the picture is not so rosy for independent bookshops. We asked what you like about your local.

Small but perfectly formed. It may not be as spacious or as lavishly stocked with bestsellers. And books do not come with side orders of super-grande caramel lattes from the in-house coffee bar.

But your local bookshop may have other, less obvious charms. It may be the service - a staff member's recommendations may be spot-on.

LOVE YOUR LOCAL BOOKSHOP?
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Or it may be aesthetic - perhaps a pleasingly panelled jewel harking back to a bygone era. Or it may even be what is on the (possibly dusty) shelves.

Throughout the inaugural Independent Booksellers' Week - running 1-8 July - some 340 bookshops of the 1,500 independents in the UK will set out to woo the reading public away from the supermarkets and book mega-marts that now dominate sales.

The tactic of many is to play up their area of expertise. Hayling Island Bookshop in Hampshire, which specialises in books for teens, is holding a writing workshop for sixth-formers with author Kate Mosse. And Torbay Books in Paignton - which republishes out-of-print titles - is holding a book boffins' quiz.

Goldsboro Books, in London's West End, specialises in specially-bound signed books and in spotting new talent. So it is stocking the first UK print-run of Canadian writer Sean Dixon's novel, The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal, about the world's premier book club (with a twist - none of them read).

But this is no ordinary print-run.

There are just 250 copies. Small.

And the cover art is by the winner of a Saatchi Gallery competition. Perfectly formed.

Cover illustration by Becca Thorne
Cover detail of The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal

Why champion a writer who is anything but local in an event pitched as "love your local bookshop"?

Because Dixon is a passionate advocate for independents - and independence in retailing.

"Large bookstores divide into sections like Fiction, History, Mystery, Politics. They can't afford to get whimsical. If they did, their patrons would be stuck wandering around the labyrinth for hours, trying to decide whether they'll find James Frey's latest in Fiction, Non-fiction, Sincerity, Tall Tales, Truthiness.

"Or in the case of my local favourite, Type in Toronto, Guilty Pleasures, Plotless Fiction, Me Write Book (sagas and epics), Me Write Good (writing about writing), Good Eats, Eat More, Doctor Feelgood..."

That's what he loves about his local bookshop. What do you like about yours?

Books at Hoddesdon
Books@Hoddesdon frequently hosts Harry Potter launch parties

Shaun Guyver recommends Books@Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. "It is run by two chaps, Stephen and Alan, with planet-sized brains. They're filled with great past reads and can find a certain book faster than most electronic systems - and also suggest other reads based around your current reading.

"The shop itself is a two-storey converted Georgian townhouse, set in the main thoroughfare of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. A Border Collie patrols the shop, so docile you'll often see it slumped over some customer flicking through a book on one of the chairs provided. It's one of my favourite hangouts."

Simply Books in Bramhall
Simply Books puts on events for the local community

Joanne Watts loves Simply Books in Bramhall. "It is one of the reasons we moved to the village and epitomises what so many English towns lack, a real sense of community. Itís only a tiny shop but you are more likely to find that intriguing book or beautifully illustrated childrenís almanac in this store than in its larger counterparts.

"What really makes it special though is the events. Last year hundreds of Wallys ran around Bramhall on a Saturday morning with black plastic spectacles and stripy jumpers hunting for clues to Find Wally. At Christmas we took our four-year-old to a Christmas carol sing along and book reading, it was a simply magical start to the Christmas break."

The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon is published by HarperCollins.


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