A Love Letter To The Bookstore

Leaving a bookstore, I always spend more time and money than I mean to, but I’m also – always – filled with glee. People keep claiming that print is a dying medium. All the big book chains have crumbled under the pressure of Amazon.com. But here’s one old-timer-at-heart who won’t go quietly into that good night. I absolutely, absolutely love itty-bitty independent bookstores.

Other people – smarter people, arguably – are masters of the library, or the Kindle, or the borrowing-from-a-friend. But me? I love the look of a newly minted edition in a bookstore. I love how ten identical paperbacks can rest in a colorful stack on a table, surrounded by other lumpings of colorful paperbacks. I love reading the little ‘Staff Recommended’ blurbs, or scanning the ‘Just In’ shelves. I like having my book world divided neatly into categories. I think that’s because something about the carefully arranged chaos of an itty-bitty bookstore echoes an organized mind.

Then there are the side perks – the chiming bell above the entranceway, meant to herald the arrival of other groovy book buyers. I like to make smug little smiles watching strangers handle the books I’ve already read. Occasionally I even rally my gumption and burst out with an inevitably too-loud, “I LOVED THAT ONE. GOOD CHOICE.” As often as not, other patrons respond with a weak, “who-let-this-crazy-girl-in-here,” grimace – but that doesn’t stop me. I’m in a bookstore, baby. Nobody can bring me down in here!.

Other accoutrements: the creaky wood paneling. The stiff, occasional wing-backed chair. Helpful staff, with spot-on suggestions.

At a certain bookstore on lower Broadway in New York, a jowled cat even guards the shelves. At two different spots further downtown, side cafes offer eager beavers cappuccinos and croissants. I, of course, appreciate the implicit message here: If you can chow down with a new book, couldn’t you just as easily STAY ALL DAY IN THIS AWESOME, BEAUTIFUL MIND MECCA? Well, don’t mind if I do

I love the chalkboard above the register, boasting the next ten free readings I’ll plan to go to but later forget about. I love the magazine stand by the entrance, filled with all manners of glittery weeklies and literary magazines. Right. Like I have time to read all of those magazines, in addition to the seventy books on my summer list. Yet a good bookstore inspires virtue; it’ll make you confident that someday, somehow, you will get to the end of your piles. Someday.

Need a good bookstore to begin your own quest for enlightenment? Here are my favorites on the Eastern Seaboard (Westerners, fill in!):

If you’re in New York City, try: The Drama Book Shop, Shakespeare and Co., McNally Jackson, BookCourt, Greenlight Books, Spoonbill & Sugartown, The Strand, Housing Works

If you’re in Miami Beach, try: Books & Books

If you’re in Washington, D.C. Try: Kramerbooks, Politics & Prose