Wednesday, August 17, 2011

List: Bookstores I Have Loved

Jon Stewart did a segment on the closing of bookstore chain Borders' retail outlets last night on The Daily Show.  It was funny, of course, but more like a satirized memorial to an endangered species.  Once vilified, even the mega-bookstores aren't immune to consumers' shifting focus to electronic media.  And while I am increasingly "guilty" of downloading books to read on my iPad, I can't imagine a world without bookstores.  Feeling bummed about the closing of our nearby Borders, where the girls and I often went for afternoon field trips of perusing books and selecting birthday gifts, I thought about the bookstores that have been there for me through my various stages of development. 

1.  Perkins Bookworm:  The bookstore in my hometown growing up. We could bike there and grab Baskin Robbins on the way home.  Perkins also sold tapes and records, but the kicker? The bookstore was a Ticketmaster outlet, making it the site of my first concert ticket purchase, for a UB40 show. 

2.  Upstart Crow:  The bookstore "across the bridge" that my best friends and I frequented in high school.  With a cafe and tables in sweet nooks scattered around the shop, it was a great hangout for chatting, conspiring, and journal writing. 

3.  Atticus:  The bookstore/cafe in my college town that I loved so much I thought I wanted to work there.  After a few months of 4 PM-to-midnight shifts on Fridays my freshman year, I reclaimed my social life.  Lesson learned: don't ruin a favorite haunt by working there.

4. Kramerbooks & Afterwords: The iconic Washington, D.C. bookstore in Dupont Circle was a mile-walk from my house and convenient stop on the way home from a night out. Who can't like a bookstore that serves beer? If Kramer's ever closes, it will mean the world is ending.

5. UCSD Bookstore: A huge store with awesome school and office supplies and an amazing selection of books. My favorite bookstore for poetry volumes. College bookstores feature arcane academic works, to browse.

6. Bay Books: My local bookstore, where I order our book club selections and they sell them at a discount. Where my former students work. For a relatively small store, it boasts an impressive magazine selection. Staff recommendation cards there have led me to some terrific reads.

7. Yellow Book Road: A perfect name for a perfect children's book store. Authors hold workshops for children, and the shop offers summer literacy camps.

8. Used Bookstores: My favorite places to peek when I am traveling; I relied on one to keep me busy reading in Florence when I studied abroad in college. Used bookstores have rare treasures and represent the culture of their environs. I chuckled as I watched the clerk at a shop in Half Moon Bay this summer transcribe the titles of each book I purchased into a black-and-white marbled composition book. Time stands still in used bookstores.

9. Borders: I know it's a major chain store, but I will sorely miss our local Borders Books. The franchise connected with the community, holding kids' poetry readings and hosting local musicians. I loved the music section, with a wide variety of CDs to sample through headphones.

Ultimately, bookstores support libraries and communities of reading, and I predict individuals will have a more narrow exposure to new works available without them, as our electronic media preselects readings based on our interests. Bookstores' book displays and groupings entice us into new worlds in a way online browsing never will. We do judge books by their covers, and jackets, and heft. Bookstores gave us permission to sample and fondle the goods.

I don't think there's any other kind of retail experience more satisfying.

1 comment:

Elloise Bennett said...

City Lights Bookstore - San Fran :) Always worth a visit - I LOVE their European History section!!!!

And yes - the art of picking up a book while browsing, deciding what to buy, and the feel of walking out with a giant stack of unknown joy... not found with my iPad!