Do You Read Me?

August 3, 2020

 

I know for certain that bookstores bring me comfort like few other places do. The beauty of the spines colourfully stacked together can be awe-inspiring but the fact that each book is evidence of some soul’s hard work, creativity, and commitment is even more inspiring to me.  I think above all,  I’m taken by the sense of optimism that perfumes the air of a bookshop. Therein may be your next favourite escape, your next learned thing, the next time someone “gets you”,  your next big laugh, the next time you can travel in time (back or forth) the next time you just savour the joy of well chosen words. Every visitor to a bookstore, whether they leave with a book or not, must feel a spark of optimism when they head in the door. So many potential experiences await. It’s downright thrilling. And so is this book.

I was recently gifted Do You Read Me? a book that explores bookstores around the world (Thanks, Mom!) and I’ve been enthralled.

Carturesti Carusel in Bucharest, Romania

From Tel Aviv to Tokyo, Porto to Portland, New York to New Delhi and beyond, Do You Read Me?  is a glorious study of some of the world’s most wonderful Independent bookstores. Being pandemically shackled, we’re not making treks to far off lands these days. Nothing, however, is stopping us from virtually voyaging world-wide through these pages. There are fascinating discussions on the independent bookstore business, the diverse and innovative bookshop keepers, and the importance of bookstores to communities. Throughout each feature are gorgeous photos and engaging back stories about what makes each store unique.  I’ve been known to steer a travel itinerary in the direction of a special book shop before, now entire “someday” trips may be inspired by a certain bookstore!

“A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” – Neil Gaiman

Some of the bookstores are astonishing architecturally – converted banks, churches and theatres restored to epic glory. There are also a few modern architectural stars, new, sleek and shiny.  Others are quaint and cute and a puzzle of rooms pieced together. Some are thematically focused on travel, romance, art … Some are named with a wink to readers, like the  “The Wild Rumpus” and “The Ripped Bodice”  and others simply tell it like it is: “Books are Magic!”

I hope someday you can locate a copy of this lovely book and enjoy the journey yourselves.

“Running a bookshop is a curious profession. It is a delightful, weird, and wonderful thing. I am grateful to have been part of it.” – Jen Campbell

Delightful Discoveries

May 21, 2010

I recently came across an article and was delighted by it for so many reasons.  Firstly, it is beautifully written, by a favourite writer,  Ann Patchett, of Bel Canto fame.  (Bel Canto is a must-read if you have yet to have the pleasure.)  Secondly, it is about the discovery of a charming little town with charming folk and (deep breath) a charming book store. Sighhhh. Should I mention the cherry pie now? Yup. Charming cherry pie!  As it’s a long weekend, many of you are busy packing your duffle bags and setting off up the coastline, to islands, or through the valleys inland. Whether your journey involves ferries or winding roads or you expect to journey no farther than your own back deck, here’s a little trip for you. A few paragraphs to give you a taste – you can read the full article in the New York Times Style magazine here.

“There I was in Petoskey. The houses were wide of porch and steep of gable, many of them painted in the colors favored by seventh-grade girls. Petunias dangled from window boxes. Below the town the sun spread its diamond light over Lake Michigan, over the boats and the swimmers and the shore. The small downtown was a throwback to some simpler idea of American vacations, a couple of ice cream stores that sold taffy and fudge, a gift shop with T-shirts in the window that said lake. Imagine the cast of “Mad Men” driving out to Michigan in wood-paneled station wagons for the summer. Frank Sinatra playing in the hotel bar. Sophisticated restaurants commingling with pie shops. The world was leafy and dappled, quiet and cool. Within 10 minutes I started to wonder how I could spend the rest of my life in Petoskey.  …

When I walked into the bookstore of this dreamy little town, at that moment, all the other bookstores I’ve known in my life fell away. Julie Norcross founded McLean & Eakin Booksellers in 1992, naming it for her two grandmothers. Like the town she comes from, she must have a long history of people falling in love with her at first sight. She’s one of those supremely competent individuals who would have made an excellent pioneer. One imagines she could build a sod house in a pinch, but she can also tell a joke, drink a martini, run a business. The books at McLean & Eakin are arranged to beckon, and there are plenty of big chairs to fall into once you heed their call. It is the kind of store where I could happily spend a summer.  …

It is just so thrilling to be around people who read, people who will pull a book off the shelf and say, “This is the one you want.” People who want to know what I’m reading and will tell me what they’re reading so that while we talk, stacks of books begin to form around us. It’s my own personal idea of heaven. It is also, in this age of the overnighted electronic hand-held, a bit of Americana you aren’t going to see everywhere. Like the town of Petoskey itself, a very good bookstore feels a little nostalgic, a place out of time.”

 Learn more about McLean & Eakin Booksellers here.  Visit Petoskey, Michigan here.

May you have delightful discoveries yourself on this long weekend!

To the Library!

April 22, 2010

My Writing Group went on a field trip recently- seeking inspiration, enjoying friendship and … yes, there may have been chocolate involved. One of the treasures we encountered were pockets and cards from library books. Remember these from your elementary school library? The names awkwardly yet carefully printed with HB pencil over several lines.  They were at the wonderful little shop called The Regional Assembly of Text on Main Street in Vancouver.

I went to the library for the first time in several years the other day and discovered I had an unpaid fine. Egad how embarrassing.  And then I held my breath … the fine? 60 cents. 60 cents!!  I am afraid I tend to mostly purchase my books and occasionally borrow them from friends.  I love independent bookstores and harbour a secret (not so much of a secret now apparently …!) desire to have my own bookstore one day. Remember Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner in the movie You’ve Got Mail? Heaven!  I confess though that books on occasion fall from the display at Costco into my cart – that buggy is so big it has its own gravitational pull.  And I do spend an inordinate amount of time at Chapters because I love wandering the aisles and perusing the vast selection of titles in a variety of sections. Home decor, reference, fashion, sport, biography, business, magazines … like so many little book shops all together. Purchases at either of these “Big Box” options always makes me feel a bit disloyal though. So … how do you shop for books? Are you a library devotee? Is it used bookstores that you frequent? Are you in the next aisle over at Chapters? What’s your favourite indpendent bookstore? Were you a Grade 5 library monitor too?

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