An Ode to the Open Bookstore

The bookstores are open again! Read on to find out what happened when I was reunited with my precious books!

These are strange times. You must know what I’m talking about. We’ve been in a lockdown for weeks, there’s a curfew, we’re not allowed to go to the pub or eat at a restaurant. We can’t go to Ikea, are not allowed to meet up with friends, we have to work at home. We all look dreadful because we can’t be bothered to wear our best clothes, and oh, don’t get me started on our haircuts. It’s terrible. But the worst thing is that the bookstores were closed. Until now: they are now open by appointment only. Needless to say, I made sure I had booked my spot immediately. 

Heaven is an empty bookstore. No people, just books full of entire worlds to be discovered. I didn’t want to see anyone, and therefore marched past three employees without even looking at them, and ran up the stairs towards the English books. I was like I had an appointment with old friends, and nothing could stop me from reaching them. (Just in case you’re reading, dear Van der Velde people, please don’t think I was consciously ignoring you. I apologise for my weird behaviour. I was just too happy to be reunited with my precious books. I hope you’ll forgive me.)

It’s almost weird how much you can get used to things. You can get used to working from home, you can get used to staying in at night, and you can get used to not playing any sports (and you can get used to having to eat less because of your lack of movement). I realised that I had also become used to not frequenting bookstores. That’s why it felt weird, at first, to be back. Was it really ok for me to be there? Wasn’t this some kind of prank being played on overenthusiastic bibliophiles like me? Would the employees keep track of which books I was looking at, and would they be judging me for the books I would buy?

I decided not to let my pleasure at being back there be ruined by my insecure brain playing tricks on me. Instead, I set my mind to the acquisition of books. There was only one book I knew I would buy: Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel Klara and the Sun. I am a huge fan of his novels, and I am sure I won’t be disappointed by this one. I also bought Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré (for he passed away a couple of months ago, and I am ashamed to say I have never read any of his novels), The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (for it looks like a dreamy book about stories – which sounds good, but I have no idea whether it is), and Childhood, Youth, Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen (for the blurb really spoke to me – I must admit I had never heard of this book or its author before). Two of these books I’m sure I’ll like, and two of these were impulse buys. I might discuss them in future By the Books! 

After about twenty minutes of picking up books and reluctantly putting most of them back, I happily skipped down the stairs (it’s harder than you think) with these four books, and decided I needed to make up for my appalling behaviour earlier. Determined to look like a normal human being, I asked the employees how they were doing, whether there were any other people like me crazy enough to make an appointment, and what they had been up to when the shops were closed (they were busy delivering books by bike – such are the joys of living in the Netherlands). We also discussed the popularity of the Bridgerton novels, and decided that none of us would ever read any of them. We laughed, I paid, and left.

It was cold outside. I realised I was hungry and hadn’t bought dinner yet. I put on my hood, walked to the nearest supermarket, the new books in my bag. When I walked in, I remembered that I had to put on my face mask, and that there was still a pandemic going on. For a glorious half hour, everything felt like it had gone back to normal.

Are you allowed to visit your bookstore? Which books will you buy next time you’re there? Let me know in the comments! Also make sure to follow me for more book musings!


  1. The last book I bought was a collection of letters sent during war time. Very interesting, somewhat haunting reading.


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