Bookstore Browsing Blues

When I was an undergraduate at University Mohammed-V, I used to find all my English-language books at the aptly named English Bookshop in downtown Rabat. The store was so tiny that the aisles only fit one person at a time. The shelves were stacked high, and you had to get a ladder to reach the top one. The books were ordered in sometimes surprising, but ultimately perfectly sensible ways. I remember the hours and hours spent browsing the shelves, looking for something I could read in my new, halting language.

I went back there last summer, for a visit, and was amazed that nothing had changed. The owner was there, and we chatted for a while about the old days. I know it sounds terribly cliché, but I would never have thought that some day my books would be sold there. (And I couldn’t have thought that not just because the idea of being published was so remote, but because back then I wasn’t even writing fiction in English yet.) The physical experience of browsing through a store—finding new, used, and even out-of-print books side by side—is one that I miss, particularly now that so many independent bookstores have closed.

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