Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: My Bookstore edited by Ronald Rice

I used to work at an independently owned bookstore.  This was many years ago before I had kids.  And as frustrating as that place could be (it cured me of wanting to own my own bookstore), there really was something magical about it.  After I chose to stay home with my babies, we moved away from the town it was in but whenever we came back to visit, that store was one of the first places I popped into each and every trip.  It was a startling and sad day when I heard through old friends that it was closing even though we had been gone from the city where it was for years by then.  And in all honesty, when we drive through now once or twice a year, it's still a reflex for me to glance over to where it used to be, briefly forgetting and fully expecting it to still be shining out from its welcoming space.  Independent bookstores do inspire that kind of long time loyalty and I'm still jealous of the people who have their very favorite store still around for them.  In My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, this collection of brief essays extols the included writers' neighborhood independents, the stores that have meant the most to them as an author, or even just the stores that invariably welcome them and gives them joy whether close to home or a continent away.  And the essays capture the ways in which these special stores feed the soul, encourage growth, and foster the imagination for all of us.
The stores are located all over the country and the writers are from a variety of genres but each of them share their deep connection to the owners, employees, and spaces that make their chosen store so very special.  Some of the authors look at the stores purely from the standpoint of a reader.  Others tell of the welcome they've received as published authors.  And all of them know that their chosen store is in fact the very best store not only in their corner of the city, state, or country, but in fact the best store anywhere.  The writers' love for the stores is palpable in absolutely every one of the entries in the book.  Some of the essays are short and others lengthier.  Some focus only on the store in question while others are more rambling and farther ranging.  Some are as much about the author him or herself as much as they are about the book shop.  It's best to dip into the essays one at a sitting as they can run together.  While each store is no doubt individual and they are peopled by unique and different folks, there are quite a lot of commonalities between good bookstores and so sometimes differentiating amongst the many highlighted here is difficult.  This book is a neat concept and will certainly help me search out good independents, something I try to do when I travel some place new, but this is very definitely not a book to sit down with and read straight through because of the inevitable similarities between essays.  Over all, it's a bit gimmicky but if it helps to maintain the fiscal health of the bookstores mentioned as well as those equally deserving but not included, it will have been a worthwhile gimmick and I'll be perfectly happy to have bought it (and at one of the included stores, just in case anyone was wondering).

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