You would think that getting over 80 writers to set down just a few hundred words apiece on what distinguishes a bookstore as their “favorite” would be harder than herding cats. After all, writers by their very nature are incorrigible free spirits; they’ve earned their stripes by breaking new literary trails, often very alone and for a very long time. Those “overnight” successes on bestseller lists take years (if not decades) to achieve.
Yet after the eclectic reading journey of MY BOOKSTORE, it’s hard to feel anything but wholehearted enthusiasm emanating from the lines as each author captures what he or she feels is the essence of the best a bookstore can be.
Not surprisingly, none of them are those big-box chain names with huge online market shares, and often huge warehouse-style edifices that look and feel more like factory outlet malls than sanctuaries of written art. It’s better to say “Voldemort” over and over again than to mention their names, though a number of the authors do, in varying shades of disdain.
"[A]fter the eclectic reading journey of MY BOOKSTORE, it’s hard to feel anything but wholehearted enthusiasm emanating from the lines as each author captures what he or she feels is the essence of the best a bookstore can be."
Being a Canadian, I’m blessed with my own affectionate cluster of local bookstores in the southwestern Ontario twinned cities of Kitchener and Waterloo (and fine ones they are too!), so I can claim no preferential bias for any of the 100 or so local businesses that these 81 appreciative Americans praise from coast to coast. I have never heard of a single one, and am unlikely in this life to set foot in any of them. But I can say without a shadow of doubt that each and every one would capture me just as beautifully as it captured the free-spirited writers for whom it serves as a second home.
Some of the recurring qualities that I appreciate as a book-consuming “end user” in a fine bookstore are wonderfully evident in the nearly 400 absorbing pages that MY BOOKSTORE takes to tell its inspiring collective story.
Phrases such as hand-selling and word-of-mouth come up a lot; the reason is clear from the start. It’s about booksellers who are not just purveyors of anonymous merchandise, but true believers in the authors they choose to feature on their shelves; it’s about booksellers who believe in building a supportive community among writers and their audiences; it’s about booksellers who defy the impersonal mass capitalism that’s all around us and make each transaction a personal and fulfilling experience.
Like so many of the authors who bare their literary souls here, I confess quite readily to buying literature online, both electronically and in hard copy. But the experiences I cherish are those timeless interludes of browsing and discovering, conversation and revelation…and, ultimately, willingly parting with cold hard cash for a warm soft book.
Open MY BOOKSTORE and be prepared for bliss!
Reviewed by Pauline Finch on January 24, 2013