Shelf Space: Full Circle Bookstore

Full Circle manager Dana Meister

The Full Circle Bookstore began as a New Age store in Oklahoma City in 1970. After a fire, a couple of moves, and several expansions, they’re now the largest general interest indie bookstore in Oklahoma and stock more than 60,000 titles of every conceivable genre. Buzzfeed, which lists Full Circle as one of the 44 Great American Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit, writes that it’s “packed from floor to ceiling with books you can access via ladders, just like in the library scene in Beauty and the Beast.” We talked with Full Circle Manager Dana Meister about free speech; the “real” heroes of YA lit; and Pearl, the bookstore’s spokesbuffalo.

How would you describe the Full Circle Bookstore to the uninitiated?

The Full Circle is a magical place. The look of wonder on the faces of customers, young and old, tells you so. Our older customers feel they are coming home again and the younger feel they are home at last. One of my favorite overheard comments is: “This is a real bookstore.” Yes, yes it is.

We have numerous rolling ladders that serve as the backdrop for Beauty and the Beast photo shoots as well as mysterious nooks that just happen to hold the latest mysteries. Full Circle boasts three working fireplaces that warm us all from fall to early spring. A little known fact—the fireplaces are now gas but were originally wood burning. We still have a backroom we call the “Wood Room” where the logs were kept. It was the duty of the booksellers to stoke the fires throughout the day. After numerous visits from the fire department, it was decided that something had to give—hence the gas logs. 

If the Full Circle were a religion, what would be its icons and tenets?

The Full Circle may not be a religion, but it is certainly a temple for one—the religion of freedom of speech, creativity, self-awareness, and self-expression. We house and preserve and glorify the most holy of holies—the written word.

Which was your favorite event and why?

My favorite events are always the children’s events. When Curious George actually appears in real life and dances with a young, awestruck child—it’s magical!

What trends are you noticing among young readers?

I think the most obvious trend in young readers is away from werewolves and vampires and toward “real” heroes and heroines. The depth of character and plot is very encouraging.

Who is Pearl and what can you tell us about her?

Pearl is our mascot and spokesperson (spokesanimal?). A few years ago, Oklahoma City had a promotion using buffaloes in a similar fashion to the penguins, mustangs, etc. that other cities have used. Jim Tolbert, the owner of the Full Circle, commissioned a buffalo to be made of pearls for our store. She is an homage to Perle Mesta, an Oklahoma City native and first ambassador to Luxembourg during the 1950s for whom the phrase “the hostess with the mostest” was coined. Pearl gets yearly checkups from her creators and lots of love from our customers.Full Circle

What are some of the bookstores’ top current handsells?

We are Neil Gaiman fans around here, so he is always a big seller for us. Any good mystery gets special attention from our staff as well.

What is your ideal busman’s holiday?

When you love books and you work in a bookstore, every day is a busman’s holiday. For me personally, a nice glass of merlot, sitting on the patio in the cool of a May evening, listening to a local jazz artist, and reading Dostoevsky—nirvana! Just FYI—all of the above can be done at the Full Circle!

Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor.

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