Fully Booked’s shelves always had bestsellers, with a few unique finds here and there. Come October, they brought out the fake cobwebs and plaster skulls and the origami bats, and the window was filled with horror fiction novels. Come December, the window was dressed in tinsel and Christmas trimmings, with the year’s best novels on display.
Every now and then, that window announced a sale on books: on those days, I would leave the store with as many books as I can carry. And before I leave, the display facing away from the window offers me more choices: perhaps things I’ve ignored, or things that I’ve always wanted but never really found in the back shelves of Fiction A-Z.
It’s a window that beckoned me to fill my own shelves. But now, that window’s gone.
I believe that libraries—and by proxy, bookstores—are more than just places to store books in. In a world consumed by labor, wages, and toiling in the name of economic survival, libraries provide us with a place to imagine. Every book we read adds to the stores of our imagination, fuels our creativity, and allows us to explore worlds beyond our own experiences. I do believe that there is such a thing as “bookshop magic.”
Sure, bookstores may not be as profitable as restaurants or clothing emporiums or whatnot, but they deserve special places in our communities. Any place that has books in it—and treasures the value of those books through lending or selling or sharing—becomes a center for a community. There is no truer, closer example of the “marketplace of ideas” than the bookshop, the library, or other places where books are front and center. There is no place in a community that holds more stories, than the very place those stories are found in the first place.
And that brings me to the irony of the place I live in. It’s not because I’m a “bookworm” or anything; but for a place called the “home of passionate minds,” Bonifacio Global City doesn’t really have places to read in. We have more ramen shops here than we do quiet places to read. There is no publicly accessible library here, in a place surrounded by people in the “knowledge industry.” Even the concept of a “book café” seems to be alien in a place that has all the room in its enclaves for the next gastropub concept. Fun fact: there are more stores that sell bedroom furnishings within 300 meters of Bonifacio High Street, than there are places that sell books.
And now part of that bookstore—my quiet space, a place I go to more often than a 7-Eleven—will give up an important part of itself for a sandwich shop.
Back home, a friend of mine (who, by the way, owns a fantastic little place) laments that it’s quite difficult to keep a bookstore away from the red. And it’s true: I’ve seen many of my favorite bookstores grow smaller over the years, literally giving up shelf space to cafés. Perhaps because books make for really nice props sometimes. Or maybe sales don’t justify size.
There’s an old saying that goes, “books are windows to the world.” But for now, at least, those windows are obscured by one already lost to things that, as a regular, I can only care about so much. There are probably things at work that even my imagination can’t make sense of, or change for that matter. Sometimes, the order of business matters more than the order of things in your head.
As I passed by the store tonight on my way home, my heart sank a bit. The window will, for now, be a gyros shop: the odor of food cooking would replace the perfume of the pages. The sight of kitchen workers would replace the sight of books I may buy another day, as I make my way round the corner, out the door, down the street to the little library I call home. And another few meters of BHS will be lost to something else. A nice place, I’m sure, but not the place I used to know.
I’m sure that the gyros will be nice, but I’m not really sure about losing that window.