A celebration of the independent bookstore by 84 authors who consider them personally and culturally indispensable and who find the ones they favor thriving and vital, despite common impressions to the contrary.
Early on, it might seem that too many of these short pieces are repetitive, praising the stores that have hosted and nurtured them as “home,” as the “soul of the community” and other phrases that suggest a bygone era in these days of discount mega-stores and cybershopping. Yet the cumulative impact of this handsomely published anthology is not that of a series of survival stories, holdouts against the tidal wave of technology, but of a literary community that continues to flourish and needs these havens of revelation and sharing. The contributors write of being introduced to the work of other included authors by savvy booksellers and forging lifelong friendships. At least two different authors fell in love and ultimately married because of their interactions at an indie bookstore. Two of the more famous novelists (Louise Erdrich and Ann Patchett) own bookstores but write of someone else’s as “their” store. (And someone else in turn writes of Patchett’s.) Many tell of never leaving an indie bookstore without purchasing something, and most write of discoveries they have found there and/or the thrill of their first reading there. Dave Eggers strikes a characteristic chord: “Maybe it’s the feeling that if a bookshop is as unorthodox and strange as books are, as writers are, as language is, it will all seem right and good and you will buy things there. And if you do, it will persist, and small publishers will persist, and actual books will persist. Anyone who wants anything less is a fool.” Some of the other contributors include Rick Atkinson, Wendell Berry, Ian Frazier, John Grisham, Pico Iyer, Ron Rash, Tom Robbins, Terry Tempest Williams and Simon Winchester.
Everyone who really loves books loves bookstores, and anyone who loves bookstores will appreciate this labor of love.