The Dog Ear: Waterstones: a place to visit
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 2, 2013 22:09
In June, I went to the largest bookstore in Europe: the Piccadilly Circus, London branch of Waterstones. As a fanatic for books and exploring new bookstores, I could hardly contain my excitement. Luckily, it was raining that day so I had an excuse to remain in the store for a long time, thoroughly scavenging the five-story building and reveling in my new European discovery.
Bookstores tend to lure me into a world of my own. I like finding books without the need to ask an employee for help because then I feel more drawn to the book. The setup of Waterstones allowed me to do just that since the store itself is engaging to the customer. Books are piled on tables and shelves. Each display contains a sign with a quote from a novel or an author. The signs that do not contain quotes tell you why this section of books is worth reading. The signs are inviting, wanting you to examine the books but simultaneously assisting those in a rush by quickly realizing if the books are not of any interest. As a result, the bookstore cleverly makes the customer start reading before picking up a book.
It was an immense struggle to walk out of the store with only two books. Waterstones is everything a book-lover could want. Every genre imaginable and unimaginable was present within the shop. This was where I found American chain bookstores, such as Barnes and Noble, to differ from the Waterstones franchise. The categories of books were ones that I had never seen on American shelves. I was in awe as I saw books written in English but about all different corners of the world.
There were books on world history, 20th century history, Asian history and colonialism. Sections devoted to medieval, Tudor, and Victorian eras. Dozens of World War I and World War II books. Shelves with titles about France, Iraq, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the United States, Africa, the Middle East, books categorized as “short stories by country” and dozens more. These were not travel books either, just books about different topics involving those countries. Amazingly, the travel section was an entirely different area of the store.
This was a much more cosmopolitan and cultured bookstore than those I have experienced in the U.S. The store seems to emphasize educating their readers about their country, their continent, and the world around them. I was wondering if it was only this particular Waterstones that featured such an array of books so I happily found two other Waterstones in my London travels to serve as a comparison. I saw that the variety of genres was the same, only on a smaller scale.
Books have the ability to take the mind anywhere it desires and they are a perfect tool for learning since you can study the pages at your own pace. With this in mind, I wonder why our bookstores do not feature such a variety of books about other countries. I think it would be extremely beneficial if they did. Readers could learn about the world while still at home and read about their destination before traveling. The U.S. is not the only country that exists. Our bookstores need to acknowledge that other countries also have rich histories and cultures, not just ours. Since books have the ability to bring people together, why can’t they bring countries together too?