The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore

29949144The Short Version: For Independent Bookstore Day 2016, Ann Patchett (perhaps the most famous independent bookstore owner in the world) adapted her Atlantic article as well as delivered two new pieces to encourage others in the care and feeding of such an exotic beast.

The Review: I’m a sucker for an exclusive piece of literature, especially when it’s got its heart in the right place. This can most certainly be said for the first “A $6 Story” from the folks behind Independent Bookstore Day – and who better to inaugurate what will hopefully be a long-lasting series than Ann Patchett? She’s one of the best novelists working today and now perhaps just as famous (if not more so) for her role as co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville – so she stands as perhaps uniquely suited to talk about the craziness of deciding to, one day, open up a freaking bookstore.

Because, if you cast your minds back only a few years, you might recall that people were convinced the book industry was dead and just hadn’t quite yet flatlined. Hell, there was an article just a few weeks ago about how Barnes & Noble might go under sooner than later and how that would truly bring about the end of books. But at the same time, Amazon has opened brick-and-mortar bookstores, something they were supposed to be the end of – and I myself haven’t purchased a book from a big store (be it Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the like) in nearly a year. I like my local bookstores – and chances are, if you have one near you, you do too.

This was Patchett’s conundrum, those several years ago: her two reliable local bookshops in Nashville (one a Borders and the other an indie that had been bought out) both closed up shop around the same time, leaving the city bereft of true independent booksellers of new books. (Used stores, she does hurry to point out, existed and still do and serve their own function in the literary ecosystem.) So she teams up with a friend and a near-stranger and they open a bookstore. And I don’t know if you were reading things about it when Parnassus opened but… I sure as hell was. I saw that episode of The Colbert Report and I remember Patchett on the front page, above the fold, of The New York Times. It was a sensation, the idea that an author would go to bat for books in such a way – and this little volume makes it seem like it is absolutely the most freaking fun in the world.

After all, this blog is all about telling you what to read / what not to read. When I did my take on John Warner’s biblioracling, it was about telling you what to read next. So Many Damn Books is based in Christopher and I’s joint passion for not just reading but sharing a great book with as many people as possible. When I tweet about being excited about something, it’s because I want to tell the world about it – and there’s a reason I pretty much only gift books anymore. It’s all for the love of reading, of books themselves, and of the camaraderie of the shared literary experience. The second essay here, “Things No One Told Me About Owning A Bookstore”, is the sort of thing that will either make you smile and say “oh how nice” or it’ll make you go “shit, now I really want to open a bookstore.” I myself am the latter: the idea of dogs and colleagues and authors and a world where everybody is happy to come to this place because they all share a love of the same thing… damn, it sounds like heaven on earth.

Oh and she includes 50 (and a few) recommendations, too. Because what’s a bookseller if they’re not recommending something for you to read, right?

Rating: 5+ out of 5. It’s a slim volume and a little silly in some ways – but it’s a charming silliness. After all, wasn’t it silly of Ann Patchett to decide to open a bookstore at a time when people were convinced e-books were going to put the kibosh on all other reading, when everyone was still skittish from Borders going under? Turns out, it wasn’t silly at all – it was savvy. If you love books – but more importantly, if you love bookstores and the unique sensation of shopping at an independent bookstore – this one is for you.

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