From Kate’s Writing Crate…
As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.
Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.
For readers and writers planning summer vacations, check out My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, edited by Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America, published in 2012). There are eighty-one independent bookstores in thirty-six states to choose from as an added bonus to or as the main purpose of any trip.
After reading the fantastic tributes by writers like Isabel Allende, Wendell Berry, Meg Waite Clayton, Fannie Flagg, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Pete Hamill, Ann Hood, Mameve Medwed, Ann Patchett, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Tisserand, Luis Alberto Urrea, Abraham Verghese, Terry Tempest Williams, and Simon Winchester, not surprisingly, I want to visit all of them. Luckily, two are within an hour of my home. On the next trip to see my dad, we will visit the one within an hour of his home.
Then I will branch out with friends and other family members in tow. I think we could visit maybe ten or twelve more in daylong trips from their homes—only one or two a day so we have plenty of time to browse, read, and shop once we arrive. That is the point after all.
All of these tributes mention the importance of the book-loving owners and knowledgeable staff. Beautifully summed up by Ann Haywood Leal in her tribute starting on page 201: “Finding a book a home in someone’s heart is a talent. They may not know it, but…the staff of Bank Square Books [Mystic, Connecticut] are in the business of matchmaking.”
Some excerpts from the tributes:
The floors have to creak, of course. There should be a bit of a chill inside—not dank, or damp, but enough to bring on thoughts of curling up somewhere with one of the bound companions. If the table displays, favorite picks, and the like have a quirky randomness to them, in defiance of the latest imperatives from publishers, all the better…
All of this you take for granted at The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle.
Timothy Egan (page 88)
At Watchung Booksellers [in Montclair, New Jersey] there’s a daily rhythm to the life of books. Kids are running around—a bookstore like this is where kids are first brought into the wider world of reading—and there are the sounds of conversations about books, and the humming quiet of the browsers, and the crisp tearing and folding of gift-wrap paper at the counter, and it smells like books, with that fresh, subtly seductive smell. Independent bookstores such as Margot’s [owner] collaborate with writing in such an intimate way that makes cyber bookselling seem merely retail.
Ian Frazier (page 119)
…The event is an author series called Book Your Lunch, and it’s the brainchild of bookseller Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction an independent bricks-and-mortar bookstore in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Book Your Lunch is a fantastic way to bring readers and a wide range of authors together—from mystery writers, to award-winning novelists, to non-fiction and cookbook authors. Fiction Addiction sells tickets in advance, and the featured author reads from her work, or gives a short talk, followed by a Q&A session, a delicious lunch, and then an on-site book signing.
Mindy Friddle (page 121)
Some of the writers of the eighty-two tributes may not be familiar to readers. All of the essays end with writer bios, listings of their books/works, and/or website addresses. (While 84 writers wrote tributes, two were collaborations and The Strand in New York City received two tributes so in total eighty-one bookstores are celebrated.)
As if dream bookstores and writers new and familiar to readers weren’t enough to delight readers of this book, within the essays many of the writers mention their favorite authors.
What more could a reader ask for? Well, I do wish the bookstores’ addresses, phone numbers, and websites were listed at the end of the essays or in the Bookstores by Location index on pages 375-378. Not hard to find online, but still it would have been better in the book.
Whether you are traveling or not this summer, My Bookstore is plain fun--fabulous destinations and numerous book suggestions for readers. It’s almost as good as visiting one of these treasured bookstores!