Wednesday, January 9, 2013

a good book.

I've just finished reading this delightful memoir about a couple who move to Big Stone Gap, Va and start a used book store. (the former coal mining town was made ‘famous’ by local author Adriana Trigiani’s series Big Stone Gap in which a single 30 something orphan comes into her own and finds love with the help of some meddlesome townspeople.) It's full of quirky small town characters, the ups and downs of running a small business, the pains of watching the book industry shift and crumble all interspersed with references to authors and books for all ages and covering a variety of genres.

If I could do anything in the world (besides be independently wealthy!) I'd run a children's book store ala Meg Ryan's in You've Got Mail. Mahogany shelves filled to the brim with old and new favorites, child-sized (and maybe an adult-sized or two) overstuffed chairs for curling up in and getting lost in Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts and more. There'd be a hint of coffee shop ambiance as well with afternoon tea for teddy bears, story and craft time, visits from local authors and more.

But the moral of that story as the movie so brutally showed is that independents just aren't making the cut these days. Big Box retailers and online stores like Amazon (ignore the ironic links to said online store above!) are driving them into the ground and the advent of ereaders isn't helping either. Which is why this book is such a breath of fresh air. Granted since they are a used rather than new store they have a different set of challenges and parameters to deal with but the fact still remains that they've made it work. And in a small town, no less. You've got to admire their gumption.

And I wish my brain could spout literary references the way the author’s seems to. She’s got a book/author for every situation and I found myself smiling over references I could relate to and jotting down a list of books and authors I haven’t read yet so I could be on the inside of the corresponding joke. I found myself nodding my head in agreement when I read this:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something --a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things--that you'd though special, particular to you. And her it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. --Alan Bennett (from the play The History Boys)

She also has a way with her own words. I loved this quote:

Selling books is not like selling most other things. Food must be palatable' clothes should fit; paint has to the be the right color. But books? On the one hand they are all things to all people, on the other a different thing to every person who bug one: entertainment, information source, inspiration and motivation, talisman of wisdom, even a mile marker on one's journey. The reason someone wants a book can vary widely, from household decor to seeking enlightenment.

I've just added a visit to the bookstore in question to my list of things to do while I'm in the general vicinity so I can see it all for myself. Are any of you frequenters of independent stores? (book or otherwise?) what keeps you coming back?

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