B is for Bookstore
|The bookstore of my youth.|
The first books I bought were at garage sales or in the kind of antique shop that sells used books too. But in 1978, when I was nine, a bookstore opened in Multnomah Village, a shopping area and neighborhood in Portland known for antiques, community organizations, and cafes. Annie Bloom's had a terrific children's section, a store cat, and a staff that didn't seem to mind kids. By the time I was ten, my best friend and I would ride our bikes about 2 miles to the village, take a summer pottery or creating writing class at the arts center, split a hot fudge brownie delight at Fat City Cafe, then browse Annie Bloom's. We bought each other and our sisters birthday presents there--a hardback of Anne of Windy Poplars, a paperback Wizard of Earthsea.
My parents shopped for me there too, and we all like just browsing the books and greeting cards. I didn't often buy books for myself there--my allowance didn't stretch that far, and if I did feel the need to purchase books for a trip or something, I'd do better at Powell's City of Books downtown, where I once scored ten books for ten dollars. Still, I loved the store, and occasionally succumbed to the lure of a newly published work. I found David James Duncan's The River Why there at seventeen, and carried it everywhere I traveled for the next ten years.
|An entire city block. Full of books. One could spend days here.|
For high school graduation, my best friend's parents gave me The Mists of Avalon. They weren't sure which book to pick, and the owner told them her teenaged son had loved it. Later that summer a bunch of my swim team friends were over, and Seth noticed the tome and said, "Oh, I loved that book!" Further conversation revealed that his mom was the eponymous Annie--I already knew that Susan Bloom, an acquaintance of my parents, supplied the other half of the name.
Sometime in there, the store moved across the street to its current location. Back from college and my first stint abroad, living at home while I waited to enter Peace Corps, and working at a job that had the seemingly exorbitant salary of $18,000/year, I broke a lifetime of habit and started buying books. I got hardbacks of Dickens, I got new novels that sang to me from the shelves. One day they handed me a large canvas bag, because I'd spent over $100 dollars. That made me gulp, and resolve to show more restraint, but man did I love that bag.
I've gone back to being too cheap to buy books often. (Possibly because landlords and banks seem to be less lenient than my parents were about the whole rent thing.) I browse Powell's, but find it doesn't have as many deals as it did back in the day. I'm always mildly ashamed when I buy books at Barnes and Nobles, or worse, Target, but in the interest of building a classroom library without starving my family, I do what it takes.
Then last spring, a friend mentioned that Jan's Paperbacks has a program that offers free books to teachers. I'd long known the location of this little shop, but had never actually stopped in, imagining it full of Harlequin romances and formulaic Westerns. But this I had to check out.
While Jan's certainly has all the genre paperbacks of my imagination, it also has a decent kid's section and YA section, plenty of "regular" fiction, and even a new books section that leans heavily towards children's and classics. Their policy is to pay 1/4 of the cover price for any book they buy from you, and to charge 1/2 of the cover price to customers. Their teacher deal is unbelievable--you get $30 worth of books of your choice, which means actually $60 worth of books, but then they tack on a discount, so you basically end up walking out with two grocery bags of free books that you chose individually. I asked if this was a one-time only thing, or if I could return annually, and they told me that hardly anyone ever took advantage of it, so annually would be fine. I then made the mistake of shrieking about this to everyone I know, and the last time I was in, they said there's been an explosion of teachers asking about the program. Oops.
|It's in a charmless strip mall, which paradoxically adds to its charm.|
Jan's sells lots of supplies for adult coloring. They have book clubs and indie author events. They have a pot of coffee towards the back, and my daughter delights in getting me a cup whenever we visit. We visit pretty often, because not only is it in my neighborhood (unlike Annie Bloom's and the downtown Powell's), when I got a small grant from my district to buy kids books "on demand," I decided to take all my business to Jan's, in appreciation of their generosity to teachers. Of course, then my district screwed up the invoices and they didn't get paid for two months, which is horrifyingly embarrassing, but I'm hoping they don't blame me. I LIKE walking into a bookstore and being greeted by name, and I like how willing they are to track down out of print books or the missing books from a partial series in my classroom library.
I am a fervent library user, but bookstores are just as important. They support authors, they unite communities, they make reading thrilling. What are your favorite bookstores? What do you think bookstores offer that libraries can't?