Book Nook Schnooks Unite!

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a book nook schnook.  I can definitely relate with The Shop Around the Corner, Meg Ryan’s little bookstore in “You’ve Got Mail.” There’s a coziness, a warmth that the large chains can’t give you. Don’t get me wrong. Stores like Barnes & Noble are still very nice; especially if you like fresh muffins with chocolate icing and cappuccino with your browsing, which I get often when I’m perusing the six, eight, I mean one – yes of course, just the ONE book that I’ve finally decided on.

me in a bookstore

The advent of Kindle and Amazon sounded the death knell for hundreds of small bookstores, and many large, nationally known chains. B. Dalton, Borders, Brentano’s, and Crown Books have all gone the way of the brontosaurus.

Still, there’s a place for the little neighborhood bookstores that have been able to stay open in these trying literary times, thanks to legions of Book Nook Schnooks, just like me, across America. Although not nearly as prolific as they once were, many of these smaller shops are alive and well, and even the big publishers are now paying more attention to them, helping them with pricing and marketing. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s part of the local community. It’s a meeting place for friends and neighborhood book clubs. It’s like a “Cheers” bar for book lovers. There is a growing “buy locally” movement that benefits the independent bookseller. For every $100 spent in a national chain bookstore, only $43 of it stays in the local community. Small bookstores? More than $73 stays in the neighborhood. There is also a sensory aspect to the small bookstores. When I’m in a Barnes & Noble, while resplendent and heavenly, it nonetheless smells of credit cards, name tags, industrial cleaner, and the aforementioned cappuccino (which really, they’re worth the trip if you ask me). In a small, locally owned bookshop, I smell Emily Brönte, Shakespeare, L.Frank Baum, Jack London, and Mary Shelley mixed with essence of earnestness. And not in a bad way.
  • Who wouldn’t love the small bookshop experience? Visiting one is like putting on a warm sweater on a chilly day, a cup of tea, a shelter from the storm. One never knows what will be found when turning the corner in an aisle and browsing. That’s a key word: It’s a word that is overused, yet underrated. Visiting a small store can be like visiting a vintage clothing store. “Wow!  I didn’t know I needed that, but I want it.” A pleasant surprise — in book form — lurks around every corner, just waiting to be found. Children sit on the floor, poring through picture books. Kindly Ms. Kelly is reading stories to a group of seniors.
  • The staff knows what they’re doing. They are keenly familiar with the store’s offerings. They don’t need a computer to see what’s in stock. But they know how to use one to order any book they may not have but a customer wants, and are probably just as excited as you are when it’s finally located. They love books more than you do, if that’s even possible. “Hey, if you liked X, you’re going to love Y!” Conversely, they’ll let you know if something you’re looking for isn’t your cup of tea. “No, actually, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ isn’t a graphic designer handbook.”  You can count on what a small bookshop employee tells you. It’s like the library except you get to keep your newfound treasure.
  • The “intangibles.” There is an “atmosphere” to a small store. You may find a comfortable amount of clutter, pictures drawn by local schoolchildren, and potted plants. Walking into a small bookshop, you will feel the tension in your neck and shoulders disappear, your attitude improves, and time slow down.

Yes, I am a proud Book Nook Schnook. Do yourself a favor and visit your locally owned bookseller. It’ll be good for you – and good for the neighborhood. There are more than 1600 of them still around. When you do, stop by and say “Hello!” for me. And hey, if you want to buy me a book…even better!

story-time is the best time

Stranded (I wish)

You know that old phrase, “If you were ever stranded on a desert island…” Meh, I’m not a huge fan of that. It’s not like I have anything against beaches or sunshine or lounging in the sand. I just happen to have a better place in mind to be stranded should the next polar vortex or zombie apocalypse rear its ugly (and rotting) head. Put me in a bookstore before any place else. It’s the one place I know of that never gets boring. A desert island, yeah, it sounds nice but I think I might get tired of eating coconut every day and seeing the same damn horizon day in and day out. In a bookstore nothing remains the same. Around every corner and on every shelf is a new landscape to traverse, a different perspective to consider, a unique set of lives to explore. It’s a sanctuary of endless possibility and I revel in the impossible task of trying to find that nonexistent end. I can’t think of anything better than being stuck to while my days away in a Barnes and Noble…especially one with a Starbucks in-house. Throw in some pastries and caffeine and that pretty much sums up Nirvana for me….even if zombies are knocking at the door.

stranded at bookstore

An Unrepentant Addiction

If you’ve ever been at home watching network TV in the late morning/early afternoon, during The Price is Right, Family Feud, or any old school soap opera you’ve no doubt seen those cheesy coffee commercials where a woman wrapped tight in a pastel shawl has her hands cupped around a steaming mug of French Roast. Without a care in the world she looks out the window of her breakfast nook just contemplating how wonderful of a morning it is. She’s in no rush at all to start the day and just basks in the comforts her caffeine and nook are providing her. How silly, right? Well…

I want that! Not exactly that, but close to it. The only thing I’d change about those commercials is that instead of standing around like a zombie I’d be curled up in a decked out bay window seat with a good book in my hands. It’d be a requirement.

Books, reading, literature…appreciation of the written word is the lifeblood of my house. I may not have the breakfast nook or the time to laze around in the mornings or a sprawling vista of oaks and elms rolling into the distance from my backyard, but I do have the book part down. They’re absolutely everywhere; stacked on nightstands, scattered around the bed, piled on stairs, and littering the kitchen counter. Hell, it’s not rare at all to find a book under my bed covers because I fell asleep reading (again). My daughter’s room is practically a library in and of itself.  Even the spare room isn’t safe and has more than its share of bookshelves.  We’re hopeless addicts (a nicer way to say this would be bibliophiles) to novels, tomes, epics, thrillers, horrors, mysteries, best sellers, unknowns, contemporaries, and classics. It’s all fair game.

This addiction doesn’t make for the tidiest house in the world but certainly an entertaining one seeing as how you can literally stumble across a good story at any given moment. While the rest of the Barnes and Nobles are going down quicker than the Titanic, I may be single-handedly keeping the one near my house in business. Every time I go in there with my daughter any cash I may be fortunate enough to have in my pockets is quickly transformed into a bag of books.   You can never have too many, right? At least that’s my understanding. It’s simply impossible for us to window-shop in a book store.

On top of the whole Barnes and Nobles temptation problem I have, there is another one closer to home.  The downtown area of my neighborhood is reminiscent of Mayberry (showing my age here).  And right smack in the center of the main drag next to the coffee shop is a used/rare book store. It’s large and dusty and unorganized and the guy who runs it looks like he hasn’t stepped out into the light in decades.  But it’s a treasure trove to me!  I could seriously spend hours in this place.  And have.  I enjoy everything this hole in the wall offers — the smells of the old books, the joyous wonder of searching through the shelves to find some rare book I’ve never seen before or perhaps one that I remember from my childhood or maybe a classic in its original print rather than the abridged edition.  They’re all fodder for my unrepentant book compulsion.  And did I mention it’s right next door to a coffee shop!?  Nirvana.

One day I may have a house that has that beautiful vintage inspired reading nook complete with a cushioned window seat and surrounding bookshelves in an oh-so-cute and artistic arrangement.  Until then, though, I’ll enjoy the hard and softbound jungle that is my cluttered home, which really, in itself has become the greatest reading nook of all.

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