Back to this side of the Atlantic today, with Sara Gray telling us about Queen Books and A Different Booklist in Toronto, Canada. Catch Sara on Twitter!
I used to work near Queen Books, at a job I hated, and most weeks I would buy myself a book as a reward for making it through another five days in the office without quitting. It was a haven, a cozy place with good lighting and a group of booksellers who cared that I left with the right book in my hands, whether I was buying for myself or trying to find baby books for a new mother.
Queen Books is located in Leslieville which, for all you non-Torontonians out there, is packed with small businesses and cool people. Located right beside an ice cream store, before the pandemic, I could often be found browsing – carefully – with a cone of rum raisin ice cream. The store isn’t huge, but it is well-curated, with a generous children’s book section and an eerily prescient selection of back-list titles.
Queen Books is exactly what an indie bookshop should be, warm, welcoming space for the community. An LGBTQ+ friendly space, they hosted Drag Queen story-time for young readers. They also recognize the importance of uplifting Indigenous, Black, and brown authors and their new online ordering system is categorized not just by genre but also by type of read (“Dirt Bag and Hot Messes; Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island) which makes it easy to find your next read without being physically in the store.
I would also like to highlight ‘A Different Booklist’, which is an African-Canadian book store that specializes in books from the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora and the Global South. Unfortunately, I just moved near to them when COVID-19 started, so I haven’t had the pleasure of shopping in their store. I have only ordered from them online. That being said, their online ordering system is seamless and they have curated booklists for children and young adults (and easy browsing for adults), so if you’re looking for more diverse titles to add to your bookshelf, this is a great option.
What one book would you buy from there: I am going to cheat and pick a few books, because one should always buy multiple books from an indie bookstore. For 2021, I have set myself a goal of reading books I have wanted to read for ages, but have not gotten to for one reason or another. I am most excited to start with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, and I’m Afraid of Men by Canadian author Vivek Shraya.