The town I grew up in didn’t have a new bookstore. It didn’t have a used bookstore. Today it has a used bookstore, but it still doesn’t have a new bookstore. Neither does the town I live in now. Things haven’t changed much.
When I was a kid, I bought books from the racks at the drugstore. Once or twice a year, I’d save up my lawn-mowing and leaf-raking money and talk my dad into driving all the way over to Sacramento, where there was a used store called Beers Books. A couple years later, Tower Books opened. Nirvana. I’d spend the afternoon there, and leave with an armload. (My dad was a very patient man.)
But mostly I’d send away for books from those ads you’d see in the back of the books. “If you enjoyed this book, here are some more books you might enjoy…”
And today we have Amazon.com and Abebooks. I’m still sending away for books.
But where does that leave the new bookstores, and specifically the independent bookstores? The last bastion against the forces of homogenization? The final emporium of free thought and heretical ideas? Are they going to get some love here, too?
You bet. One of my favorite experiences is going through the shelves of an interesting new bookstore. I have my favorites: Powells, of course, in Portland; University Bookstore in Seattle, and the Seattle Mystery Bookstore; City Lights, Green Apple Books and Borderlands Books in San Francisco; Almost Perfect Bookstore in Roseville, California; Book Passage in Corte Madera; Dark Carnival in Oakland; Wrigley-Cross Books in Gresham, Oregon.
And bookstores where I’ve never been but love anyway: Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Murder by the Book in Houston, Mysterious Bookshop in New York; Once Upon a Crime and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Books in Minneapolis; Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego; Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor; Malvern Books in Austin; Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City; Vroman’s in Pasadena; Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver; Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara; Big Sleep Books in St. Louis; Bookshop Santa Cruz, Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA….
And a moment of silence for all the great bookstores who are no longer with us, including my old favorite, Tower Books, the chain store that didn’t feel like a chain, where it seemed like you could find just about anything. Gone now, the victim of even bigger chains.
You no doubt have your own favorite bookstore. Maybe it’s a used bookstore. Robert’s Books in Lincoln City, Oregon, and Kayo Books in San Francisco are two of my favorites. But then, I live on the West Coast near the Oregon border, where our own local used meccas, Booklegger and Eureka Books, also get a lot of my business. But whoever they are, support them. Buy books from them, order books from them, tell your friends to shop there, spread the word. There are never enough bookstores in the world. And if you’ve got a favorite you’d like to share—maybe a local bookstore that needs some Stark House books, perhaps?—let me know. I’d appreciate it.