by Michael Bedford
Published at 2023-04-26
The Canadian Independent Booksellers Association is dedicated to creating a collective voice for independent booksellers in Canada. Its vision is to help Canada become a country where diverse independent booksellers contribute to the cultural and literary landscape.
CIBA is the host of Canadian Independent Bookstore Day (CIBD) that takes place this Saturday, April 29. CIBD offers writers, readers, and a variety of literary professionals an opportunity to come together to “celebrate indie bookstores across Canada.”
Participation in CIBD is easy to accomplish, and no registration is required, just show your support on April 29 by visiting one of the amazing independent bookstores in your area. For those who can’t resist a challenge, though, the CIBA’s Contest for Book Lovers offers competitively minded book-buyers a great opportunity to show just how much they support their literary communities.
I look forward to earning a few entries in the Contest for Book Lovers, and, as always, I look forward to visiting as many unique local shops as I can. Here are 6 indie bookstores and a bit of their histories that I’m looking forward to visiting and invite you to consider doing so as well!
After nearly 20 years at their location on Markham Street and Harbord Street before that, The Beguiling moved to its new location on College St. The Beguiling’s new location boasts twice the space of its Markham Street location, and in 2018 The Beguiling opened its sister store Little Island Comics, which sells comics for young readers exclusively.
I first visited The Beguiling at their Markham Street location, packed to the rafters with graphic novels, art books, and magazines of all kinds. On top of their vast and eclectic collection of books, The Beguiling has hosted many book launches and author signings, including appearances by Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison. Adding to their already stellar reputation, The Beguiling was the inaugural winner of the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award.
A few blocks west of The Beguiling’s new location is Flying Books. Flying Books was founded by Martha Sharpe, opening its doors in 2015. More than simply a place to buy books, though, Flying Books is also a publisher and the home of Flying Books School of Reading & Writing, which offers classes on “criticism, journalism, fiction, memoir, poetry, writing for the internet, and more.”
The Flying Books School of Reading & Writing is supplemented by the Flying Books Mentorship Program, which offers students an opportunity to work one-on-one with members of the school’s faculty.
Just northeast, on Harbord Street, you’ll find Bakka-Phoenix Books. This downtown bookstore specializes in genre fiction, including science-fiction and fantasy. Bakka-Phoenix opened its doors in 1972 under the name Bakka Books. Over the decades, this independent purveyor of genre-fiction has hosted many famous science-fiction personalities, including the cast of Star Wars and the author of A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin. Bakka Books was also the progenitor of The Silver Snail, a popular Toronto comic-book store that opened its doors in 1976.
Heading northeast to Weston Village is an independent bookstore with lots of history. Founded in 1927 by Arthur Squibb and his wife Cary, A.T. Squibb Stationery and Books, now Squibb’s Stationers, has long been a highlight of visiting Weston Village. Owned and operated by the Squibb family until a few changes of hands saw the Squibb’s sold to Jack and Marylin Weinberg in 1980, the Squibb name stayed on the storefront even after Jack and Marilyn’s daughter Suri took the reins in 2001. Squibb’s website boasts that they are the oldest continually operating Toronto-area bookstore and stationer, but if you’re looking for fiction or bestsellers, Squibb’s might not be the best option, focusing instead on an eclectic collection of honeys, bibles, textbooks, workbooks, Replogle globes, and other curios.
Calling East Hamilton home, The City & The City Books offers patrons opportunities to purchase new and used books, magazines, and other impulse items. Amid the textile, antique, and record stores on Hamilton’s Ottawa Street, The City & The City Books opened their doors in 2019. Owners Janet and Tim host a monthly The Way Out East Book Series, and a podcast called New & Used: Book Talk. The City & The City offers a little bit of everything for everybody, and advertises a small but highly curated library of just about everything new and used, from history to graphic novels.
Located in Toronto’s west end, Another Story Bookshop is a proudly independent bookstore that sells literature for all ages that focuses on themes of social justice, equity, and diversity. They boast a large collection of children’s books and staff are knowledgeable of the Ontario curriculum. Supporting teachers, schools, and students is important to the staff here, so they provide educator discounts, host book fairs, and create custom orders for schools. They also help diversify school collections by attending vendors fairs and tabling at educator events.
To celebrate Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, Another Story is hosting an author meet-and-greet, with swag, great deals on books, and nine authors you can chat with about their books! Swing by and see who you might meet between 12 and 5!
If you are looking for an indie bookstore to visit in your area, check out the CIBA’s handy map of stores across the country at https://cibabooks.ca/bookseller-map. We hope you’ll find yourself a few good indie bookstores to visit this Saturday!
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He can be reached at https://mgb-editor.com/.