Magazine article The Spectator

From Booksellers to Censors

Magazine article The Spectator

From Booksellers to Censors

Article excerpt

Why I've cancelled my signing at an anti-Trump bookshop

To my mind, a bookshop is like a library -- the only difference is that you buy the books, you don't borrow them. But both have a duty to provide books (space and budgets allowing) reflecting a wide range -- as wide as possible -- of interests, reading tastes, subjects and points of view. Walk into one of either and there are the thoughts and feelings, beliefs and dreams and creations and discoveries of many men and women, and that is part of their never-ending excitement.

If you are, say, a Christian bookshop, and advertise yourself as such, or a Middle Eastern bookshop, or a communist or a feminist bookshop, then by your very title you are indicating to the prospective customer that what they will find inside are books about Christianity, the Middle East, communism or feminism. If you want books about Buddhism or Japan, do not expect to find them here, is the message. Fine. The reader knows where they stand. I do not expect to go into a bookshop all of whose stock is in the Chinese language, which I do not understand, and find a book about French cookery. I know, I am being very obvious.

But if I find a general bookshop, of medium size, of course I know it cannot stock everything, though I hope it will be efficient enough to obtain anything for me. I expect to browse, and come across a book by a scientist who is a prominent supporter of the man-made global warming theory next to one by another whose view is the opposite. I expect to find books by Richard Dawkins next to those of Justin Welby. I expect there to be posters advertising the latest crime novel by Val McDermid or a war history by Max Hastings or Antony Beevor. I want to find books by experts writing from different angles. I should like to see a light romance about love in a little café next to the latest Goldsmiths Prize winner.

I do not expect this bookshop, wherever it is, city or market town, to have posters and a Twitter feed and a Facebook page telling me it is so against what the President of the United States stands for/believes/is/is doing that it is stocking only books devoted to those writers who oppose him too, and what is more, will give them away free. …

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