Bibliophiles — those who love books — are numerous. You can always spot one — when you visit someone for the first time, look for their library; and then look to see what’s in it. A friend, Diane Sternbach once suggested to me that a good motto for our time might be “by their books shall ye know them,” and I think she’s spot on. (Diane even asked Google to translate the phrase into Latin: “a libris eorum cognoscetis eos eor (know them from their books).” She comments, “Doesn’t exactly fall trippingly from the tongue, does it?”)
Bibliophiles have even entered legend — Captain Kirk is a lover of books.
One of the great pleasures of being a bibliophile is the discovery of a new independent bookstore. The folks that own them love books, too, and it shows in what they sell and how they sell. It’s not just a job with them. Like good librarians, they will often size up a patron and make suggestions which lead to the reader’s discovery of new authors and new books. Over the years, I’ve had some very happy times wandering through independent bookstores, talking about books with staff folks, and following their suggestions about things to read.
Amazon and the Big Box stores have killed a lot of small bookstores. But independent bookstores are still with us. They provide service not available at the big box stores or online — try calling Amazon with a simple book or author question. The independents also offer books that the big places are not interested in carrying because they can’t sell enough copies.
Here are some favorites: Shakespeare & Co., Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Bookstore WestPortal in San Francisco, Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, Moe’s in Berkeley, Books Inc (“the West’s oldest independent bookseller”) in Mountain View, California, Kepler’s in Menlo Park, California, Book Boutique in Henderson, Nevada, Vroman’s in Pasadena, California — I could list these all night.
There’s a new book out now, of essays about authors’ favorite bookstores. The LA Times has an excerpt from one of the essays here
What about you? Do you have a favorite bookstore, a place where you like to browse for a while, maybe have some coffee, and talk books with a passionate staff? If so, put it in the comments section, please.