It is an obvious truth that writers and bookstores have a symbiotic relationship; ultimately one cannot survive without the other. This relationship is explored in a most interesting and entertaining way in My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. Edited by Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America, with an introduction by Richard Russo, the book is a series of 81 essays by noted authors about bookstores that hold a special place in their hearts. Unlike the standard, generic "independent bookstores are good" comments you often hear, these vignettes are quite specific.
Between these covers you will read of Isabel Allende's love of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California; she sums it up nicely with the line "The only place as comforting as a friendly bookstore is probably your grandmother's kitchen." John Grisham writes of how, when he couldn't generate any interest in the first printing of A Time to Kill, Mary Gay Shipley of That Bookstore in Blytheville, Arkansas saw something in him and his work that others did not and enthusiastically pushed the book. Ann Patchett, now a bookseller herself as well as a novelist, writes of McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan: "I walked into the bookstore of this dreamy little town and at that moment all the other bookstores I'd known in my life fell away." High praise indeed.
What becomes clear early on is that this book could just as easily been titled "My Bookseller." Far more is written about the people running these bookstores than the stores themselves, and this makes complete sense. The physical building houses the books, but it is the passionate and dedicated bookseller who makes readers aware of the treasures contained within their walls. And who better to seek out for guidance on which books are amazing and which are dreck than those Quixotic souls who devote their lives to a love of books, knowing full well they could make more money doing almost anything else.
In My Bookstore you will learn of shops like Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn and The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. But you will also meet Greenlight's Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and The King's English's Betsy Burton. Just as there is no way to think of Shakespeare and Company Bookstore without also thinking of Sylvia Beach, these bookstores and their proprietors are virtually one and the same.
So pick up My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop and spend a quiet evening with some great writers and even greater bookstores and booksellers. But be sure to get it from your local independent bookseller; you might just start a relationship that will last a lifetime.