Opinion: Why I love this bookish corner of Bedford

Bedford Waterstones' Emma Smith

One of the great advantages of independent shops over chain stores is that they have an individuality and ‘personality’ that encourages brand loyalty.

However, sometimes a national chain’s local branch is able to cross the rubicon and reach its customers in a more unique way, and that’s just what’s happened at Waterstones.

The nationwide bookseller has a branch in Bedford that recently relocated from Silver Street to Midland Road.

Bookseller Emma Smith is very active on social media and her Instagram page, @EmmasBookishCorner has over 3,000 followers.

She’s a funny, intelligent, engaging and voracious reader and along with all her wonderful Waterstones’ colleagues, a great source of reading recommendations.

But it’s her year-long reading challenge that sets Waterstones in Bedford apart.

From January to December this year, Emma has issued monthly reading challenges to her group of ardent bibliophiles.

From ‘read something by an author new to you’ to ‘read an Agatha Christie book’ (one thing you quickly learn about Emma – she’s a massive fan of murder mysteries) the challenge is a great way to inject something different into your reading life.

The challenge creates a community among those taking part, who then share their reads with each other, ask for recommendations and generally indulge their love of books.

There’s no expectation from Emma that you’ll buy all or any of the 12 books you read over the year from her shop, but there’s a likelihood at least some will. But there is an authenticity and connection that is built up that creates a ‘feelgood’ vibe about the brand.

“With Emma’s Bookish Corner Challenge, I wanted to create something that would inspire people to use bookshops, discover something different and to share reads with other book lovers,” said Emma.

“I also wanted to make sure it was relaxed and pressure-free, we deal with so much life stress, books can provide much-needed respite and that should be celebrated.”

Taking part in this year’s challenge has seen me read books I’d never normally consider and there’s more flexibility and freedom than being in a traditional book club.

If you’d like to get involved in the 2023 #emmasbookishcornerchallenge, you can find out more by following her on Instagram.

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