Odes to independent bookstores


Once home to two books stores, Main Street Book Cafe, and Iconoclast Books. Now Cornerstone Bar & Grill.Ketchum, Idaho

We love bookstores as much as we love old movie houses, music stores, and farmer’s markets. Odes to independent bookstores–such one recently posted on The Daily Beast–are vital since each time one is mentioned there is a desire to seek it out when on the road. Like finding a new restaurant, hitting up an independent bookstore is part of a great travel experience.

Read the story here: America’s Greatest Independent Bookstores—and Why They Should Survive – The Daily Beast.

“Independent bookstores are about community,” says Mitchell Kaplan in the story, and he is spot-on. Where I live we have two really fine independent bookstores. The nearest Barnes & Noble is more than an hour’s drive away, and isn’t much of a draw. I hate hearing that someone bought a book at Costco (also more than an hour away) but I have been known to order online, and am a big library user.

Ketchum’s Chapter One is on The Daily Beast list. Iconoclast Books should be.  Both are active participants in the community from hosting authors to selling books at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference. They each have their own flair and style.

Breakwater Books in Guilford, Conn.

Some others not on this list I’d add would be Portland, Ore.’s Powell’s, Missoula’s Shakespeare & Co, R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., and New Orleans’s Maple Street Bookshop. In New York City, the Strand rocks, of course, but so did my favorite spot to kill time–the original Mysterious Bookshop in Midtown (now  in Tribeca) and Shakespeare & Co. on the Upper West Side. (They are all named after, but not affiliated with, the queen of indie bookstores Sylvia Beech’s original Paris outpost). Also notable are St. Marks in the Lower East Side,  and the Greenlight in Fort Greene.

Growing up, the most fabulous place in the world was a funky book, gift and toy emporium known as The Remarkable Book Shop in Westport, Ct. where each whimsically imagined room led to other fantastical spaces full of information, fantasy and knowledge. It was a rainy day made perfect.

What makes a great bookstore anyway? Mainly I think it’s atmosphere. Is it comfortable? Does it smell/look/feel good? Is there a good and intelligent selection of material? Do the employees know anything about books?

I like a comfy place with good chairs and tables where you can put things down. This allows one to pick up a book and browse through it, or at least read the first sentence (hugely important). My dream bookstore has a small cafe for coffee and tea. The smells go well with the feel of paper, and sight of words. Like raspberries and roses–a perfect fit. There must be nooks and crannies like in the library in which I grew up (Pequot Library).

I prefer a place where I am not bombarded with the idea of commerce but rather by a sense of literary history,  ideas and love of the written word. I have wonderful memories of working at the (now defunct) Main Street Book Cafe in Ketchum, Idaho. Delicious smells wafted from the cafe, a pot bellied store kept us all warm in the winter, and there were some of the most fascinating  books I’d ever laid eyes on. Great people congregated,  talked books and read.

Here’s to the written word and the pages that embrace them, the covers that protect those pages and the people who sell them. Here’s to people who still read.



St. Mark’s has been a fixture on the Lower East Side since the late ‘70s
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