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“Thank God for books.”

“Thank God for books.”

The remark made me smile when she said it and makes me smile again as I write it here. I’d asked my mother, a woman with type 1 diabetes, missing half of one lung after a victorious fight with lung cancer, and 19 heart stents, how her week was.

“Just like every other week since March,” she said, stubbornly. “Thank God for books.”

Connie Corrigan

My mother isn’t one to sit still, and she sure as hell isn’t one to be told what to do by her son. How has she survived her litany of health issues? “Positive outlook,” she says. She likes to “go.” So being told by me (and her granddaughters, her husband, even Dr. Fauci on CNN) that shopping, book club, restaurants, travel –– all of it –– is off the table brings out her stubborn side.

“I’m reading three or four books a week,” she said. We got her a Kindle Fire for Christmas two years back. She reports having 500 books on the thing.

COVID changed lots of things.

I’m teaching over Zoom and wearing a mask in the classroom when I don’t. (My wife says I “have a Fozzie Bear voice,” so the mask only makes it worse.)

The publishing industry has changed, too, and not in a good way. An editor at a small independent house known for eclectic crime titles told me his house had been hurt badly by COVID. The email exchange saddens me because we need those independent publishers (and inde booksellers) if we aren’t going to only read what “the big 5” puts out –– high-concept thrillers.

Our local mystery bookstore recently closed. It was more or less a one-man operation. It was also a place where I could walk in, say, “Give me something I can’t get on Amazon,” and the owner, there day and night, would smile and lead me to a book. His recommendation was a homerun every time.

It’ll be interesting to see how things look from the other side of COVID. A look at the Edgar Award nominees tells us just how important the independent presses are. As we help local businesses stay open, I hope readers also remember their small presses and independent booksellers because my mother’s book-buying habit can’t save everyone.

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