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As a writer who’s spent 40 years trying to contribute to public-interest conversations in Canada, I want to salute Canada’s independent bookstores for the vital role they play in nurturing these conversations, and ensuring that diverse voices are heard, and local ones too. They’re not only filling the void left by the near collapse of credible book reviewing in mainstream media. They’re an oasis of independent thought in their own right – in what’s fast becoming a digital desert of polarizing online chatter.

Wherever I walk in the door – be it A Different Booklist in Toronto, Octopus Books or Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Massy Books in Vancouver, Munro’s in Victoria or Windowseat Books in Nanaimo near where I now live – the talk is original and informed, the atmosphere warm and relaxed, and the attitude conducive to everyone in the store believing that what they thinks matters.

Whoever you are, wherever you live, seek out a local independent bookstore and go there to affirm the importance of this cultural conversation and of yourself as a part of it.