The forest in the bookstore: NaturaLlibres
We have approached the village of Alins (Pallars Sobirà) in the Pyrenees of Lleida to discover a bookshop in the forest or rather, the forest in a bookshop: NaturaLlibres…
NaturaLlibres is not just any bookshop. As its name suggests, nature is present in all its offerings, but, in addition, the entire establishment seems invaded by the forest that surrounds it. Decoration according to its environment, which together with the calm attention of its owner, Meritxell Álvarez, makes us not feel any threshold when we cross its doors: we continue breathing the aromas of wood and stone and the leisurely murmur of the forest. At the end of the Farrera Valley, the village of Alins welcomes her and there we have gone to chat, buy some books and take a walk.
Meritxell Álvarez decided to leave Madrid, where she worked as a cultural journalist because of the pandemic. Her maternal grandmother had to leave Alins because of the civil war, her great-grandfather was the then republican mayor. They escaped through the Tor Valley, like so many others in the area, to Andorra. Meritxell was born there.
The bookstore specializes in mountains and nature, guides and themes of the area, with sections such as Món rural, Km0, Poesia emboscada, Gastronatura, Petits salvatges, or Bosc de llibres with attention also to the little ones.
Why did you decide to move a year ago and open a bookstore?
I come from cultural journalism and what I was looking for after the experience of confinement in the city, in Madrid, was to return to my mountains of origin and set up a business, in my ancestral home, related to my profession.
It is difficult to see a bookstore in such a remote village. Alins has about 80 inhabitants and is a little off the main road: did that worry you?
No, not at all. I wanted to set up a business that would enrich me and also the territory. I had been away from nature for too long, and I think that when my customers come in, they also feel this return here: they are not only customers from the area, but also tourists who feel the need to breathe.
I also have to tell you that although the village is small, in these valleys people read a lot: just as in the cities some people like to read and those who don’t, in rural areas, the same thing happens.
Did you do any market research, did you have a clear idea of the public you could approach from here?
Not really. I packed my bags and it worked. My expectations were very low, and the reception has been very good.
Tell me something positive and something negative that you have considered this year as a bookseller in the countryside?
Positive, what I have told you, the good reception of the neighbors; and that they are also good neighbors, I can count on them for everything.
Negative, I would only comment on the lack of institutional support. I believe that if a minimum of means were put in place, many more people would return to the rural world, and we would make it grow.
And this bookstore is an example of this. We join in this desire. We encourage you to follow their book clubs and meetings and, of course, to buy their wild selection of books.