Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina, which just moved to a new, two-story location, rarely goes a night without hosting a discussion group, town hall, or author event—recent visiting writers include Laurie Halse Anderson, Jacqueline Woodson, and Gloria Steinem. In 2001, QRB won all three major bookselling awards: Publishers Weekly’s Bookseller of the Year,the Pannell Award for Excellence in Children’s Bookselling, and the Haslam Award for Excellence in Bookselling. Here, General Manager Sarah Goddin gives us the QRB tour.
What is Quail Ridge Books famous for?
We first became known for the giant heart and oversized personality of our founder and former owner, Nancy Olson, who recently passed away. She started the tradition of our famous author events and town meetings and especially of hosting authors across the political and literary spectrum, from Jimmy Carter to Marco Rubio and Charles Frazier to “Weird Al” Yankovic.
If QRB were a religion, what would be its icons and tenets?
We’d like to think we’re a shrine to good literature and our staff; with apologies to Geraldine Brooks, we could be called the People of the Book. Our walls of signed author pictures in the bathrooms (where all genders are allowed without producing birth certificates) would definitely be icons, along with a book light, a bookmark, and a staff pick.
Tenets would include: books will expand your mind if you open up and let them; don’t be afraid to read those good, hard books that take you out of your comfort zone; you should always make time to read the fun stuff, too; be kind to people who like different books than you do; print really is better.
Which was your favorite event, and why?
We do about 250 events a year, and I’ve been here 20 years, so there is no way I’m going to pick one event out of 5,000 and say it was my favorite! However, among my favorites are any time David Sedaris has come to the store. David is not just the funniest person you’ve ever heard or read; he’s a brilliant writer, and he’s very, very sweet to his fans.
How has Quail Ridge been affected by the passing of HB2 (the law requires that, in government buildings, people use the bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates)?
We haven’t felt a direct financial effect or had any authors cancel, but the state certainly has suffered from the many events and businesses that have cancelled, and that has an indirect effect on us. Other than financially, I think we’ve felt a combination of frustration, embarrassment, and outrage but also of hope in seeing the many different people, groups, and businesses in North Carolina who have come out in opposition to HB2.
What are some of your top current handsells?
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles; Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; Dimestore by Lee Smith; The Risen by Ron Rash; Underground Airlines by Ben Winters; Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan; The Mathews Men by William Geroux; Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith; and Taking on Diversity: How Can We Move From Anxiety to Respect by Rupert Nacoste. How many do we get???
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the joys of being an independent bookstore has been collaborating with a great group of colleagues both locally and nationally. Recently eight local stores from the North Carolina Piedmont banded together in a monthlong promotion of Independent Bookstore Day (IBOP*NC), and 33 North Carolina independents (and several North Carolina publishers) issued a joint letter to the governor and General Assembly calling for a repeal of HB2.
Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor.