“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
This week I took a jaunt downtown to visit The Last Bookstore. California’s largest used book and record store, the Last Bookstore is a bibliophile’s dream. One could (and I did) get lost in there for hours.
Independent bookstores stand, it seems, as some of the last citadels of civilization in a country that increasingly mocks and devalues its intellectuals, like the high school cool crowd that rips you apart for not only completing the assigned reading but actually daring to enjoy it. Threatened constantly by the corporatization of, well, everything, they eke out an existence by any clever means they can.
I remember when Barnes & Noble opened its first store in Berkeley. We were all terrified that our beloved bookshops, including Moe’s, Pegasus, Cody’s and Shakespeare and Co., would fold with the competition. Moe’s and Pegasus are still going, But Cody’s, after trying a relocation, closed in 2008 and Shakespeare and Co. closed in 2015. The Other Change of Hobbit, a fantastic bookshop that specialized in sci-fi and fantasy, seems to be gone as well. If you like, you can blame skyrocketing rents and declining sales. How many other small shops disappeared or never started, we’ll never know. Ironically, that particular Barnes & Noble on Shattuck that I remember has also closed.
I have to confess, when I walked into the new B&N back in the day, I was delighted with ALL THE BOOKS! Such a selection! And the trinkets for book lovers – book lights and bookmarks and fancy notebooks and knick knacks… I was entirely seduced. I never lost my love of the Independents, though I did feel like I was two-timing them somehow.
Then the Juggernaut Amazon stepped onto the scene, and everything changed again. I resisted the lure of the Kindle for a while but eventually gave in. I can’t lie – I’m a fan. But the digital world of books likely cost Borders their business and I don’t know how long B&N will manage. I suppose it’s the way of things…and though I love the convenience of my e-reader, and I love that authors have the means to reach readers now without a publisher if they choose, there is something I’ve missed…it’s not the just feel of the paper, but maybe, the space itself. Walking to a bookstore is a little like walking into a sacred space filled with fellow worshippers all seeking their next journey.
Stepping into The Last Bookstore reminded me of so much goodness — such a celebration of books and art. They have nightly cultural events if you’re in the area. It’s a little far for me for regular visits but…I pass by the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood on my way home from work. Maybe I’ll just stop by next week…
The info about extreme bookstores has moved here.
Writers also LOVE bookstores. They write about them. A lot. Here’s a few books set in or about bookshops I’ve read, and a bunch more I haven’t. Get them at your favorite Independent Bookshop. Or on your Kindle, Nook (is that still a thing?), Library… wherever. As long as you are reading, I am happy.
Books about Bookstores
The Bookshop on the Corner – Jenny Colgan
The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin
The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
Still on my to-read List:
How to find Love in a Bookshop – Veronica Henry
A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cosse
The Bookshop of Yesterdays – Amy Meyerson
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores – Jennifer Campbell
The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
The Bookstore – Deborah Meyler
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore – Matthew Sullivan
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap – Wendy Welch
The Last Bookstore in America – Amy Stewart
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History – Lewis Buzbee
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend -Katarina Bivald
Words in Deep Blue – Cath Crowley
The Bookshop at Water’s End – Patti Callahan Henry
The Little Bookshop Of Lonely Hearts – Annie Darling
84 Charing Cross Road – Helen Hanff
The Bookshop Book – Carol Ann Duffy
A Very Special Year – Thomas Montasse
The Bookshop On Rosemary Lane – Ellen Berry
Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Bookshops – Jorge Carrion
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
– James Baldwin