About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Buying Books During the Covid Pandemic

McNally Robinson Saskatoon

As I sit at my desk at home trying, but sometimes failing, not to feel sorry for myself over life  in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic I thought about what the virus has meant with regard to my purchasing of books.

In March, when non-essential businesses were closed in Saskatchewan, bookstores were on the list. While the doors were closed books could be purchased by phone or electronically and curbside pickup was allowed.

I cherish the experience of going to bookstores. I love browsing the shelves, taking a peek inside potential purchases and considering unexpected books. Unable to visit bookstores I did not avail myself of the phone or internet to buy books for a couple of months.

There was no shortage of books around me. My TBR piles could have lasted me the rest of 2020 and long into 2021.

On April 22 I made my first book purchases of the pandemic when I ordered by email the shortlist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime Fiction novel from the Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore in Toronto. The quintet of books were duly delivered to our office mailbox in Melfort. (There is neither house nor business mail delivery in Melfort.)

By early May I really wanted to go book shopping. I could have gone to one of the big box stores such as Costco or local grocery stores and pharmacies which had been allowed to stay open. I refused to get any books at those stores as it struck me as unfair that they could display and sell books but bookstores were closed.

With our province having few cases compared to almost anywhere, the provincial government started re-opening the province. Bookstores were allowed to re-open as of May 19. I did not rush to Saskatoon.

A couple of weeks later in early June Sharon had a medical appointment in Saskatoon. Later in the day we visited the McNally Robinson bookstore and I bought a couple of books. It did not really feel comfortable shopping so I did not spend much time at the store.

Just over a month later in mid-July we met our sons and families at the Saskatoon Indigo store. (Indigo is a part of Chapters - the large Canadian bookstore chain). While waiting I did browse the store and held myself to a few books.

When Jonathan arrived with our granddaughters, Hannah and Hazel, we went back into the store. Hannah, 2 ¾ years old, charged around the kids section pulling out and looking at books. Eventually she, with a little encouragement from Grandpa, chose a little cardboard suitcase containing 7 Paddington Bear books. She was also ready to take home a new backpack until her Dad said her current backpack was just fine. Her little sister Hazel, just over 1, was content to have her Dad find her a book.

At the end of July I wanted to get the books from the shortlist for the 2020 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction so I ordered them and a couple more from Sleuth. 

In late August we were in Calgary for a visit and went to the neighbourhood bookstore, Pages, in the Kensington District. Hannah had a hard time deciding between two books. I appreciated her dilemma. I equally found it challenging to get just one book.

In September I was in Regina for a hearing when the evidence was concluded early one day. I drove to the large Chapters store at the south end of the city and had a fine time looking through the mysteries. I went for a book and left with 3 books which is how bookstore shopping usually proceeds for me.

Sharon and I were back in Saskatoon in mid-October and I went to two bookstores. My first stop was at Westgate Books, my favourite used bookstore in the city, where I bought the opening book, Murder in the Marais, in the Aimée Leduc series. I went on to McNally Robinson where I bought the newest books by Gail Bowen and Louise Penny.

That trip was the last time I have been in a bookstore. While bookstores remain open, with our province experiencing a surge in Covid cases, we have not ventured outside Melfort for almost two months. We do not expect to be in Saskatoon until the end of the year.

During November I did make a further order from Sleuth of Baker Street which has arrived. The trio of books includes Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards.

I have asked Santa for some books including the latest books by Michael Connelly and John Grisham. It would be a sad Christmas if I did not get any books. I am optimistic Santa will come through.

In a province long dominated by a farm economy the cry of “next year” is a constant theme. I am optimistic I will be able to freely visit bookstores sometime in 2021. I hope it is sooner rather than later.


  1. Oh, Bill, I know just what you mean about browsing through bookstores! I miss doing that! Some of my best shopping memories are about going into local bookshops and just looking around (and almost never leaving empty-handed!). Years ago, my husband and I used to shop at one where patrons were encouraged to sit on a chair or the floor and read 'just one chapter.' The bookstore had a resident dog, too, which made it al the more comfortable (for me, anyway). Then there was one that was housed in converted barn - 5 floors of books!! I loved getting lost in that store. It had a resident pet, too - a pig!

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Those sound like wonderful bookstores. Five floors of books. I might never get out. I know bookstores with a cat or a dog but a pig - wow!

  2. I browse more at libraries and shop for books online although I try hard not to use Amazon but order from a site, which passes the order on to a local bookstore. I am lucky that my daughter gets a lot of free crime books to review or blurb and sends them out to me. My library has curbside pickup but that doesn't work well for me because the hours are too limited plus I don't drive. The pandemic has been very hard in the Detroit area.

    1. Patti: Thanks for the comment. I equally avoid Amazon. I am sorry your pandemic life has been more limited than my own. Our restrictions are modest by comparison. I hope you can soon get back to your library browsing.

  3. Since the pandemic began, we have been to our independent bookstore only once in person. We did not feel comfortable shopping even with masks and social distancing in a relatively tight space. But when we did go, it felt so good. Shopping for books in person, browsing, is so different than ordering online. Although I was still a bit uncomfortable. We have been able to do orders and pick up outside the store several times. I too have plenty of books to choose from at home but the lure of the bookstore is there. We also did get to go to a small Planned Parenthood book sale recently, but the event was in a more open area and not too many people at one time. We are thankful for a few occasions like that.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am sure your bookstore appreciates your in-person shopping and pickup orders. I find people who love to read also love the feel of books.

  4. Thanks for those evocative snapshots of book-buying in lockdown. Like you, I really have enough books to get me through, though don't seem to have reduced the pile much! Here, when we knew we were about to go into a second lockdown, I went into a bookshop and was encouraged by huge queues of people waiting to pay for their books - they were obviously stocking up to make sure they had something to read in the quiet weeks, and it was a nice sight.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I believe a lot of books have been purchased in the last 9 months around the world. Crowded bookshops are too rare a sight in good times and impossible in pandemic days.

  5. I miss bookstores and browsing in the library. There are no bookstores near to my apartment building. But I had an appointment and had to take a cab and walked overe to an Amazon store. I could only go in for a few minutes, but I was so happy to see a huge selection of books. And I looked at fiction on display.

    I enjoyed my few minutes. It' slike going into a bakery.

    The library was closed in March and so I did buy books. I
    treated myself and then loaned them out to friends.

    Now the library is open for stop and grab, so books are set aside and one rushes in and out. Nothing to browse is set out.

    I do miss bookstores. I was on a roll reading, then it stopped. Now I'd like to restart it again, but I have work to do. I must get back into the books.

    A close friend passed away at the end of September, and I think that's when I lost the reading zest. But there's nothing like escaping into fiction, especially mysteries.

    I've got the Grisham and Connelly books on library reserve.

    If anyone wants to order books from a wonderful bookstore, I can recommend another one. Some good friends moved to Duluth, Minn. a few years ago, bought a building and turned it into a bookstore, caalled Zenith books.

    It has a lovely website, and they are only too glad to ship out books.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I am sorry for the loss of your close friend. Losses seem to have deepened through the stress of the pandemic. I am glad you are reading again. Your comment has inspired me to look up Zenith books and write a post which is above. Best wishes for the holidays.