To add insult to mortal injury, the survivors are looking at a deeply troubled holiday shopping season. Mail orders, which have surged during the quarantines, now face significant delivery delays as shipping speeds drop with increased online orders across the retail landscape. Many stores are open to foot traffic but are operating under strict municipal or state orders that severely limit the number of customers who can be in the store at one time — not the ideal scenario in a shopping season that can make or break the entire fiscal year.
Books remain the ultimate gift: easy to wrap, available in such a multifarious array that there’s truly something for everyone and, best of all, a desperately needed break from screens in the age of TikTok and Zoom. A book does not beep at you, spy on you, sell you out to marketers, interrupt with breaking news, suck you into a doomscrolling vortex, cease to function in a nor’easter, flood your eyes with melatonin-suppressing blue light or otherwise interrupt your already troubled sleep. That’s why my best beloveds are all getting books for Christmas. Who wouldn’t want such benefits for the people they love best in all the world?
Once upon a time, at the end of a harrowing year, a way to be a storybook hero presented itself to ordinary mortals in the midst of a dangerous shopping season: Buy books.
Call your local bookshop — or check the store’s website — and order books for everyone on your list. Then pick up your order curbside and head home with a feeling of peace and accomplishment, and the knowledge that you’ve helped to make the world a better place without endangering yourself or anyone else. Because the only way for bookstores to survive is for people to find a way to shop there, even as the coronavirus continues to surge.
As Lisa Lucas, the departing director of the National Book Foundation, said at this year’s virtual ceremony for the National Book Awards, “I’m just a girl, standing here in a ball gown and a pair of Crocs, in a library, asking you to love books with money.” If I had a ball gown, I’d make the same plea, but I’d make it in my own neighborhood bookshop, Parnassus Books, surrounded by wagging shop dogs and the brilliant booksellers who always know what I need to be reading, even before I know it myself.
Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South. She is the author of the book “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.”
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