I am sitting in my old desk chair, in a bookshop that was at one time a gas station (garage door still intact); that one time was over 35 years ago. This shop has thrived in this community of readers for over three decades. That is an accomplishment, however, I do find myself wondering what the future will bring. Everyday I meet more and more people who are downsizing their book collections as they grow older. Less often I meet people who are building their life libraries. It is more common now to keep your library on your electronic device, gone are the days of living room walls lined with bookshelves full of leather bound gilt chased volumes. And Yes, I do miss those days.
BUT…I believe in the future of books. I think there is a place for the bookshelf in our lives as well as the electronic books we take to the beach. There are multitudinous books that aren’t available electronically, as well as many that aren’t available in print. There has to be a balance here. The community bookstore is a place where children are introduced to the joys of reading, where they grow out of children’s books and into adult fiction, a place where parents and grandparents can share the books they loved as children with their children. It is a place to discuss love and death, politics and prose. If we lose our bookstores we become that much less of a reading community, that much less of a community.
What is the future? Books, bookstores, booksellers and readers…I hope.
I chose this quote as my “headline” today because I haven’t written in so long. I spend too much time worrying about what I should write and not enough time actually writing. Inspired by William Styron who wrote in spite of the hell of it, here I am, writing.
I have been quite busy lately running the bookstore and working at the coffee shop I am a part owner in. I have noticed that my brain seems to have holes it never did before, that authors name isn’t popping up the way it used to. Hmmm…I just saw that book, but am unable to lay my hand on it. This is a frustrating turn of events, however, today I got a glimpse of what can happen when one decides to embrace the moment.
A gentlemen in the coffee shop was trying to come up with the name of an author, he gave a great description and I thought John Williams author of “Stoner”. This was not the correct author, but led to an excellent discussion of John Williams as an author and of the book “Stoner” in particular. The customer heard the author mentioned on “The Writer’s Almanac” so we looked up the archive, which led us to the information, the author was James Salter author of the new book “All That Is”. Mystery solved! As a bonus we listened to Billy Collins read Philip Larkins poem, “Talking In Bed”.
All this thanks to the holes in my memory. If I had just come up with James Salter we would have missed out on so very much. Here’s to embracing the moment and the community of readers in all it’s glory.
The books that I am currently reading tend to pile up on my night table. If I am having a particularly difficult time getting involved in something, I have another right to hand. I thought I would give a quick synopsis of what I am currently reading. I would love to hear from other people about what is on their “night table” right now.
“The Prague Cementary” by Umberto Eco. Eco is always an interesting challenge. I enjoy his books because they capture a time and a place in history. This particular book is set in Italy during the Civil war/revolution. Thus far I am enjoying the twisting plot line.
“Rameau’s Niece” by Cathleen Schine. I just started reading this book this morning. I have already laughed out loud several times. I find that Schine is a witty and intelligent writer. Her characters are rich and deeply layered. I recently read “The Love Letter” by her and really enjoyed it.
On the pile, but not yet started:
“The Love of the Last Tycoon” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I just re-read “The Great Gatsby” before going to see the movie. I had forgotten how much I appreicate Fitzgerald’s writing style. I thought I should read more of him and was hoping to read “Tender is the Night”, but I do not have a copy in the shop. I decided on this title instead. I think I will read all of his works as he did not write many books.
“The Recognitions” by William Gaddis. A tome of a novel that was recently recommended by a customer whose opinion I value. We shall see!
I just finished reading “Divergent” and “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth. I usually like to have a young adult novel going as I am always trying to keep up with what is new on that scene, I like to have read books before I recommend them to younger readers. These two I really enjoyed. The main character Beatrice or “Tris” is independent in spite of her “love interest”. I think Roth does a good job of defying conventions and keeping Tris a real character who struggles with who she is and where she belongs in her own society. I like that she follows her own truth.
I would love to hear what other folks are reading, feel free to comment!
I taught High School English at Alternative Schools for ten years before becoming a bookseller. The reality was that I WAS a bookseller then too. I am and always have been first and foremost a reader. I just happen to have good interpersonal skills too, which are important both in teaching and in running a shop. The one thing I tried to do with my, somtimes difficult, students was to encourage them to read. I wanted them to know that there was a world outside of the one they were familiar with. A world full of people and ideas that belonged to them and that they belonged within.
It isn’t often as a teacher working with “at-risk” youth that one is rewarded. The following is a facebook post by a former student of mine. He was a reader before I met him, but it means a lot that he is still.
“I really wish the world would get back/more into reading. Books have taught me so much, and they continue to teach me so much. A good story properly written can teach you lessons that would have taken you years and many hardships to figure out on your own, books have taken me so many places that no other activity ever will be able to. I’m so grateful for all of my teachers that inspired me to read, they have taught me to accept every situation I am thrown into and to never give up, to never surrender. Books have helped me reach a state of thinking, understanding, and clarity that I would have never been able to find on my own.” Tyson Beswick
I also wish people would get back to reading more…
The first post on a new blog is rather daunting. There are so many things I could decide to write about. The incredible history of the bookstore I own, the collection of regular customers who both amuse and annoy me, the BOOKS, the politics of owning a bookshop, the book business and where it is heading, what happens to books when a society becomes electronisized (hey Shakespeare did it, so can I), the importance of this bookstore as a community cornerstone, what it is like to be a woman in business, the list is endless.
Where to begin?
Where did it all begin…for me it was when I was four, I don’t remember learning to read, but I remember reading. 1974, riding around in the back seat of our giant station wagon reading every single sign I could see, a litany, “Brooks Ave; Willard Street Market; STOP; Grand Union; every sign with a word on it was meant to be read. I am sure it drove everyone in the car with me crazy.
I don’t know how I felt when I was four, but it seems to me that it must have been a small miracle. I was a nonverbal person when I was young and suddenly here was a way to communicate, a way to understand what other people were thinking without have to talk about it with them. The world opened before me and I dove in. I was reading chapter books by the time I was six and I remember being deeply involved with the lives of the characters. Who were my childhood friends? Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sister Mary, Alec and The Black Stallion, Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon.
The most important lesson I learned was that I was not alone. There were others out there who thought and felt as I did, maybe all people shared similar feelings. I was no longer alone, but a member of a group…all I had to do was open a book.
This blog won’t be a treatise on my life, but really about books and reading and thinking, my thoughts on how we utilize story to connect and share our humanity, but I thought we should start at the beginning…and so we have.
This is a blog about a bookstore. A bookstore that has been in existance for 37 years. A lot of stories have passed through this store, both written and lived.