Ahead of National Bookshop Day on Saturday 5th October, Gill Perkins, CEO of Wandsworth Oasis reflects on her love of books and what’s going on with books at the charity.

I’m not a Kindle kind of girl

Books have always played a huge part in my life. So many books, so little time is so true of how I feel.  Somehow I don’t feel quite right if I haven’t got a good book to read.  I am not a Kindle kind of girl.  I need a physical book – I need to see the cover and be attracted to it.  I need to see how far I have yet to read. I spend ages deciding which of my many unread books to take on holiday – book packing takes longer than my clothes.  I spent 20 years commuting on the Northern Line and almost never got a seat.  I really perfected the art of standing, holding on and reading at the same time.  I think reading was what made it bearable.  How true for me the words of novelist Stephen King who said ‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’ – I was often so deeply transported to a world far far away on the tube that I would regularly miss a seat when it became available! So, it is amazing to now have a job that involves books and I am delighted that we are going to be celebrating National Bookshop Day at Wandsworth Oasis. 


Wandsworth Oasis – a team of book lovers

Wandsworth Oasis has 11 shops on local high streets in South West London, only 1 of which does not sell books.  We have a team of real book lovers – some of whom are very knowledgeable about books – particularly Carl at Amen Corner in Tooting and Sheilagh in Battersea.  We are blessed with the most amazing book donations.   Our largest collection of books is at our Amen Corner shop. It has a huge dedicated section for books.  It offers not just the latest best sellers, but beautiful old books with linen covers.  You can find a wide range of cookery books from Mrs Beaton to Jamie Oliver.  Academic text books sit side by side with Penguin originals in their distinctive orange and white branding.  Weird and wonderful titles in the fields of linguistics, mindfulness, business, theatre and biography.  Hard and paperback.  I confess it is sometimes a bit chaotic, but it is largely in some sort of order and you never know what gem you might find. 

National Bookshop Day – what’s the fuss?

This is an opportunity for High Street bookshops to share their love of books with new and existing customers and to celebrate that all important ‘community experience’ that is so missing from the general high street offer, that book shops are so much better at providing.  How are you celebrating?  At Wandsworth Oasis we are launching a bigger and better book section in our new shop in Balham. 

Charity shops versus independent book shops?

Charity shops often get bad press for their omnipresence on the High Street.  Do we have a negative impact on independent bookshops?  We do sell second hand books more cheaply, that is true.  But new books are expensive and charity shops make books accessible to everyone.  Charity shops do offer an experience on the high street that many chain retailers do not.  I think most bookshops are different though – they may be struggling in some areas, but many are thriving because they have embedded themselves in their community and really understand who their community is and what it wants from a bookshop today. You can talk to real people about books they know and love which you can’t do online.  They offer diversity and creativity - coffee, book signings, poetry readings, book clubs and other immersive experiences.  Whether you are buying from an independent book shop or a charity shop, you are shopping on your local high street, you are helping to create and sustain local jobs and you are taking one small step  in support of the underdog in a world dominated by the online behemoths and the supermarket giants. 


Happy Bookshop Day 2019!

#OnlyOnTheHighStreet and #BookshopDay.