Indie Bookshop Newsletter #5

Welcome to the first of the new irregular newsletter for the Independent Bookshops blog and project.

In 2021 I’m planning to return to the format where the newsletter will include offers, signed bookplates, and other things of interest to independent bookshops and that is why it will be irregular and of varying length. I’ll pop one out when there is something of interest.

This newsletter though is a round up of my 2020 and my plans for 2021.

2020 has been a very strange year…

Though I thought that I’ve not really been able to read with the same energy as I have previously I have read the same amount of books this year as I do on average, which it really hasn’t felt like.

I have been furloughed for most of the year and I’ve been able to do a lot on the blog that during my normal work cycle may have taken a couple of years to finish which is really great.

I’ve separated the maps and lists of independent bookshops into large regional maps; UK and Ireland, Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Oceania.

I’ve also been able to add about a thousand data points to the various information pages on the blog; including developing a podcast page, a subscription service page, and a gift token page. This is in addition to almost clearing out the backlog of indie bookshops and indie publishers. There is only about another couple of hundred data points on my list to add to the blog, though this could grow at any time.

There was some uncertainty at the end of November and December about the future of the blog but this has all been resolved so onto…

2021 and all that

I’ve plans for 2021, so many plans for 2021, bigly plans!

Though all these plans are at the mercy of the vagaries of fate, or some such.

First off I want to get the Browse A Bookshop feature started again and get more and more bookshops involved with this and in conjunction with this expand the entries on the bookshop list page and map entries, giving more information at a glance, such as genre speciality, and whether or not they are a second-hand bookshop.

Next is to have more lists of the bookshops breaking them down into areas such as children’s, radical, second-hand, etc.

I then want to move on to the Indie Publisher side and start expanding their list as well, breaking this down into genre, etc. and as part of that get more Publisher Profile posts onto the blog.

This newsletter will also be part of the plan for next year to let people know what’s going on and supply news and information in a place less busy than Twitter which is my usual home.

If you haven’t subscribed yet you can at this link

I’m going to be asking publishers, authors, and marketing departments/people if they have anything to offer to indie bookshops. This could be as simple as bookmarks but could also be enhanced terms for a promotional period for some books.

I did get some feedback from the previous newsletters in that there was a visible uptick in sales for the promoted books on a couple of the newsletters, so it is always worth a try.

It has to be remembered though that it is only me that works on this project and things can take time, I do try my best and work as much as I can on it.

So those are the plans for the future, and as always if you want you can support the blog and project through Patreon or Ko-Fi to help fund the hosting and such.

Twenty for 2020

It’s been a really weird year for reading for me, going through massive swings of voracious reading then almost a month with nothing, but here are my favourites for the year (in alphabetical order.) I do want to congratulate Charco Press though for having five books in my twenty favourites, and both Daisy Johnson and Rónán Hession for having two apiece.

If you want to see a brief rundown of everything I’ve read this year you can find it at

Dead Girls by Selva Almada

Translated by Annie McDermott, a horrifying subject, a gripping narrative. I’m not sure how any words are going to do this book justice. Haunting, harrowing, emotionally draining but so, so well written.

salt slow by Julia Armfield

Magical realism, gothic fantasy, speculative fiction at its most speculative. This collection of short stories is what I love most about the form, fresh and challenging.

Hungry by Grace Dent

Laughter, tears, food, class – it has them all. I’ve always loved Grace’s way of writing about food and this humour is throughout Hungry, even at the saddest of times. Roaring with laughter one moment then in tears the next. Buy this now.

Jungledrop by Abi Elphinstone

A wonderful adventure to save both a magical world and our own, lots about love, trust, kindness, and friendship. A really great read.

Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz

A febrile mother and daughter relationship twisted by an extra-marital affair. Fast, nervous, visceral.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

Leonard and Hungry Paul is such a beautifully peaceful book, the gentleness of the main characters shines out, weaving a story of family and friends unlike anything I’ve read before.

Panenka by Rónán Hession

Another generous, beautiful, and moving book from Rónán Hession and Bluemoose Books, another perfect story for the era.

It’s going to be published in May 2021, I would get your preorder in so you get it as early as possible.

Fen by Daisy Johnson

A hauntingly beautiful collection of interweaving short stories building a new mythology for the Fens.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Another stunning book from Daisy Johnson, haunting, feverish, chilling, a non-stop read.

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan

This pulls all the threads from the other books together in a wonderful adventure with Mup and Crow facing frightening enemies and the ending was just beautiful.

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Perfect in form and content, unique in vision and execution, clearly one of the best books I’ve ever read – beautifully translated by Annnie McDermott.

Smashing It edited by Sabrina Mahfouz

Always inspiring to read books which remind me to keep pushing, keep trying, and that my voice is worth shouting out. Brilliant contributions and great art.

Mudlarking by Lara Maikem

I’ve always been fascinated by foraging, fossicking, and finding things on sea shores, and mudlarking has always been a draw. Lara writes an entertaining and illustrative story of her adventures on the banks of the Thames.

The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

A strangely compelling road trip. The narrative was extremely episodic with each adventure seemingly separate from the previous one, though it did twist back on itself in the end. Funny, fantastical, and Finnish.

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

A couple apart, exploring both their lives. Raw, funny, incisive – Margarita gets to the core of a complicated domestic drama.

The President’s Room by Ricardo Romero

A dazzling little book of understatement and metaphor, almost poetic in form, there was a simmering darkness throughout which slowly built in tension to the brooding conclusion.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

It’s hard to describe where you would categorise this; murder, mystery, hymn to nature, astrological treatise, whatever it is though it’s a brilliant read.

Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler

A short but wonderful study into the life of a man who thinks he’s doing everything right, wonderful character development for such a small piece of writing. Loved Micah’s sisters and the interaction between his extended family.

Famished by Anna Vaught

A wonderful repast of short stories around the themes of food/feasting/eating – some shared horrors of food and how memories can shape thought and behaviour – well crafted morsels of horror and thrills.

The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon

A joyfully playful collection fo stories with such a wide range and not a weak one amongst them; magical, mystical, mythical, magnificent – my personal favourite was Shallow/Deep, Thick/Thin.

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