As I have mentioned in a previous post, I worked for a number of years as a bookseller. Although I prefer working in libraries now, bookselling, for a while, was the job of my dreams and I was often surrounded by people who felt exactly the same way. Don’t get me wrong–it certainly wasn’t the monetary compensation that kept me in the industry–most booksellers make small salaries. But many of us who love books also love selling them. There’s just something so satisfying about talking to a customer, an individual, and helping her or him to select the perfect book. Sometimes I would feel that I had truly made someone else a little happier–and that is a good feeling indeed.
Of course the advent of big “boxes” like Barnes and Noble and Borders very often spelled the end for independent bookstores in communities across the country. More recently, online bookselling–most notably that provided by Amazon–has significantly changed the way these large companies do business. Today, Barnes and Noble sells more toys, music and coffee than it ever has before. Borders is, of course, out of business altogether. While I don’t celebrate the demise of any sort of bookstore, all of this may be a good thing for independent bookstores and those of us who love them. For many of us, there is nothing quite like browsing the offerings of a well-curated bookstore, actually looking through and touching the books, and maybe going home with a new find. I think of bookstores that I have experienced and loved: Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, City Lights Books in San Francisco, Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville. I treasure those memories.
It may very well be that your neighborhood independent bookstore is on its way back. Check out this September 9, 2014 article from Slate or this from Quartz September 10, 2014. In other bookstore news, you’ll find no less an entity than the mighty publishing juggernaut that is James Patterson. In the fall of 2013, Patterson pledged to give $1 million dollars to independent bookstores. Think what you will about what some call the “Patterson franchise,” I personally find it refreshing when a best-selling author says, as does Patterson in this New York Times article “I’m rich. I don’t need to sell more books.” And he adds, “But I do think it’s essential for kids to read more broadly. And people just need to go in to bookstores more.” Read the Los Angeles Times coverage of the story here .
Am I whetting your bookstore appetite? If so, don’t miss this peek at some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual from the September 2, 2014 issue of CNN Travel. My favorite is the stunning and elegant Argentinian bookstore housed in what was once a theater.
If you’d like to read more about the abiding passion that so many of us have for independent bookstores, checkout these offerings from DCPL.
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee
My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop edited by Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America
Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeanette Watson and Books & Co. by Lynne Tillman
Finally, don’t miss Ann Patchett’s collections of essays This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Patchett’s writing in this collection addresses such varied topics as divorce, family, and aging. And bookstores. Sometime in 2010 after the last two of Nashville’s in-town bookstores closed, Patchett (who lives in Nashville) decided to help open a new independent bookstore with two other women. At first, Patchett saw her role as predominantly that of financial backer. Her involvement quickly became much deeper and remains so. Check out this book chapter that Patchett published in the December 2012 edition of The Atlantic.
Do you love bookstores? What are some of your favorite bookstore experiences?