The 2nd annual Canadian Authors for Indies Day is coming up on April 30, 2016. At independent bookstores across Canada, authors will be volunteering as guest booksellers, and that’s just the beginning of the bookish fun in store. Keep up with the BookNet Canada blog for updates, and don't forget to follow @authors4indies and #AFI2016 on Twitter. BookNet's Jackie Fry, a lover of both Victoria and books, takes us on a nostalgic journey of summer holidays spent elbows deep in the stacks of her favourite indie bookshops.
This post should really be called: A Nostalgia Trip (with food!). I have roots in Victoria. My mum's family is an old Victoria family and I spent part of my summer holidays every year there visiting my grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins. When we went to Victoria, there were three things that were an absolute MUST: a visit to Roger's Chocolates; a stop at Murchie's (purveyors of fine teas and pastries); and the ultimate delight for a book-loving nerd like me, a visit to Munro's Books. When I later attended The University of Victoria, I ended up spending a good deal of my student loan each month at that bookstore. (Who needs food or shoes?) They had everything, including wonderful staff, and this still holds true today. Now when I go back with my husband and daughter, we still make the holy trinity of stops and they are delights that I wish we could bend into Toronto's landscape with Nolan-esque Inception warp—a prismatic relocation of time and place.
Of course, Victoria is NOT a one-bookstore town. Far from it. Come with me on my Nostalgia Book Trip and hit these happenin' indie bookstores on April 30. Here is a helpful map of downtown Victoria with the stops I would make if I were on the west coast this weekend:
Bolen Books – #111-1644 Hillside Ave.
I would start the day at Hillside Centre at the gigantic, 20,000-square-foot Bolen Books, a really terrific bookstore located a bus trip away from downtown. Victorians know you can walk and bike everywhere, but for a day on your feet, I think the bus to Bolen Books is the way to go. Family owned and operated, Bolen Books is another favourite haunt from my university days when I lived around the corner from Hillside Centre. Their renovated store is the perfect venue for Authors for Indies events and they are having Dawn Green, Carol Anne Shaw, Sarah Castille, and Tricia Dower sub in as booksellers for a few hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday along with their fantastic staff.
Russell Books – 734 Fort St.
From Hillside, I would get the bus back downtown, get off at Fort & Douglas, and walk up to Russell Books, a wonderful new and used bookstore that is very reminiscent of The Strand of NYC fame. Piles of books, new and used, on shelves as far as the eye can see, make this one of the greatest places to while away an afternoon. Always great supporters of local talent, Russell Books is hosting a really outstanding roster of local BC authors on Saturday, including Victoria's Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer, 2015 Victoria Butler Book Prize Winner Julie Paul, BC Book Prize Nominee Lucky (Robert) Budd, as well as local authors Julie Lawson, Lyndsay Green, and Sarah Castille. Check out the schedule on their site to see when they'll each be in the store.
While you're in the area, make sure to visit The Dutch Bakery. They have a terrific lunch menu and the pastries are simply the best. If you haven't had a cinnamon danish from this Victoria institution, you have deprived yourself of one of life's great pleasures.
Legends Comics and Books – 633 Johnson St.
After nourishing your body and mind at Bolen Books, Russell Books, and The Dutch Bakery, walk off that mid-morning snack (or elevensies) by heading to Legends Comics & Books. There are several great comics stores in Canada—The Beguiling and The Sidekick in my adopted city Toronto come to mind—but I cut my comic-buying teeth when one of the greats opened while I was doing my degree at UVic. What I knew back then was recognized more widely when Legends was awarded the Harry Kremer Retailer Award (previously known as the Outstanding Comic Book Retailer Award) by The Joe Shuster Awards. Comic book retail is a double-down passion project for Gareth Gaudin and Lloyd Chesley who really treat their customers right. They have a great back-issue catalogue, can guide you to the best trades based on your taste, or if you are a fan of the indie comics scene they are super knowledgeable and super great. Lee Henderson will be there on Saturday for most of the day.
Munro's Books – 1108 Government St.
I would round out the day by heading to one of National Geographic's 10 most beautiful bookstores: Munro's Books. It's simply a beautiful store to browse and they are big supporters of Authors for Indies with their staff tripling between 12 and 2 p.m. when more than a dozen authors will descend to help Munro's sell books and talk to fans and book lovers. Learn more.
Once you finish off your visit, it's time for lunch and tea so why not head to Murchie's next door? They have the perfect space for you to sit and peruse the purchases you made at these wonderful bookstores.
In addition to making a day of it visiting these fantastic stores, there is an added bonus to Authors for Indies Day, at least for this anglophile: To show their support for the event, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell, and HarperCollins Canada are releasing the Neil Gaiman Colouring Book on April 30, but only in independent bookstores participating in Authors for Indies Day. You may know Chris Riddell as the cover illustrator for the UK's Literary Review, the Children's Laureate for 2015-2017, or the author and illustrator of the fantastic Ottoline and Goth Girl series (if you haven't read them, run, don't walk, to get them for the middle-grade readers in your life). And Mr. Neil Gaiman? Well, there is really nothing more to say.
Make an appointment on April 30 to visit and support your local indies in Victoria or your local city. You can find a master list of stores participating across Canada and author appearance schedules at the Authors for Indies site.