Books and pieces

Just got back from a relaxing beach vacation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Aside from blue skies, a minimal amount of jellyfish, and the blackened fish tacos at Uncle Ike’s, one of the highlights of our week was spending time at the Island Bookstore in Corolla.  Below is a view from the front porch of this quaint, but well stocked and organized, establishment which seems to do a brisk business (warms the heart, that):

Like most publishing people (really, like most book people) I’m thrilled at how nicely the independent stores are doing after being pummeled by giant corporations starting in the ‘90s and facing the threat of death by e-books that doomsayers predicted (and still do).  What I didn’t expect, and find rather ironic, is the fact that we now are all worrying about  and rooting for Barnes & Noble’s survival in the wake of its recent struggles.  B&N, once publishing’s bad guy, has relinquished its evil empire status to the mighty (Villanous? Depends on who you talk to…) Amazon, with the result that people who once reviled the company are now offering suggestions on how to stay afloat for the sake of the book business as a whole.  This piece by Jason Diamond in Flavorwire goes to the heart of the issue and suggests that B&N act more like an Indie in order to save itself.  Did I mention irony?

As much as I love a musty, cluttered shop that I can lose myself in for hours at a time, growing up in the Miami sprawl, I went to the Waldenbooks or Borders at the mall because quaint, pretty Indie bookstores were not just a stroll away.  Sure, these mall venues lacked charm, but they offered access to the titles I wanted and needed and I was grateful they were around.  I do hope B&N, which effectively replaced those old mall stores, will hang on for a new generation of readers who get dropped off at the mall by their parents.

So, what’s your favorite bookstore?  And why?


6 Responses to Books and pieces

  1. Malia Kline says:

    When I walk toward Park Road Books, I imagine my feet following in the long-since-faded footsteps of my 41-year-old mom as she pushed a stroller carrying 2-year-old me up the same sidewalk. Though the bookstore didn’t open until the year I graduated from college, Park Road Shopping Center, where Park Road Books still lives, was developed in 1956, five years before I learned to read. My favorite bookstore’s home always was and always will be a magic place to me. As I pause before opening the door and finding inspiration between its shelves, I can look over and see the theater where I saw my first two movies, “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music.” To me, books and movies celebrate the memories, imaginations and aspirations of those who write them, and in the case of Park Road Books, my life’s memories too. The knowledge that my favorite bookstore now hosts both a Geek Book Club and a Foodie Book Club, and serves as a haven for authors who live in Charlotte makes it all the more wonderful.

  2. Katie says:

    I agree with Malia, it’s the memories that make the book store. For me it was spending the summer in the keys with my mother. She was (and still is) an avid reader. She took me to both the used book store, and the independent store in Tavernier, and let me fill bags with books and hello kitty merchandise. To this day, I look for quaint book stores like these, new or used – low key and quiet – like a mystery. Though in my town, B&N is all we’ve got and the train set in the children’s area is where you’ll find me.

  3. Lynn says:

    My favorite bookstore is Shakespeare and Company. The old book shop with its little nooks and crannies was a perfect place to curl up and read. In my teens and early twenties I was a constant visitor where George reigned over his store. He even asked me once if I needed a place to stay (George put you up in exchange for working in his shop) but I had a place and so I never worked there. As the years passed, into my thirties and forties, I went there less and less often.

    Not that long ago, before the weather turned hot and the tourists returned, it was a silvery grey day where the Seine matched the sky and the wind blew cold the way I love Paris. I walked into Shakespeare & Company, I could picture George sitting at his desk having a cup of tea with a group of people around him. The store is now twice its size, but books are crammed into every corner as they’ve always been, young people still work in exchange for a bed and his spirit still lingers there – or perhaps it was my imagination.

    It was like going back in time to those earlier years when I lived in a tiny studio, a 6th floor walk up, not far from the bookstore. They were wonderful days spent chatting with friends and strangers about novels, about art, and philosophizing about life as only young people can do. I didn’t stay long, I bought a book and left. I had things to do, stop at the bakery for a baguette, at the wine shop for bottles of Bordeaux, etc. I now live in an apartment ten times the size of that small studio, but stepping into that bookstore made me yearn for those days of long ago.

  4. Kevin Grange says:

    I’m a big fan of two bookstores in the Pacific Northwest–Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle) and Powell’s City of Books(Portland). Both have wonderful selections, a cozy setting, cafes and–most importantly–there is a sense that both the staff and clientele absolutely loves books

    On a related not, I read an interesting Op-Ed by Ann Patchett in today’s WSJ

    The Antidote to Algorithms: A Real Bookstore


  5. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Sorry, but this is a tough one for me. Borders crashed and burned on the Monterey Peninsula, leaving a multimillion dollar market hole that no one seems interested in trying to fill. B&N has obviously been commandeered by corporate-hopping careerists who couldn’t care less about the book business and are busy setting dinner places for themselves for when the golden goose comes out of the oven. I’m glad indie bookstores are slowly filling the gap, but around here the nearest bookshop worth the name is a ten-mile drive away and our once-interesting shopping mall is just one big monotonous clothing store. Do you have any idea how depressing it is to browse for books in Target?

  6. Miriam says:

    When I first came to New York for college 100 years ago, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I walked in to Shakespeare & Co., Lynn. And, Kevin, yeah, I live in the suburbs and I do know how depressing it is to browse books at Target. Not as depressing as at Costco, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>