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My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
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My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop

by Ronald Rice (Editor)

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In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 76 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes.

In My Bookstore our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given


In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 76 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes.

In My Bookstore our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given them over the years. The relationship between a writer and his or her local store and staff can last for years or even decades. Often it's the author's local store that supported him during the early days of his career, that continues to introduce and hand-sell her work to new readers, and that serves as the anchor for the community in which he lives and works.

My Bookstore collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 76 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It's a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops.

Perfectly charming line drawings by Leif Parsons illustrate each storefront and other distinguishing features of the shops.

Contributing Authors and Bookstores Include:
Fannie Flagg—Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL Rick Bragg—Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL John Grisham—That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR Ron Carlson—Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ Ann Packer—Capitola Book Café, Capitola, CA Isabel Allende—Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA Mahbod Seraji—Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA Lisa See—Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA Meg Waite Clayton—Books Inc., San Francisco, CA Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown—The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA Dave Eggers—Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA Pico Iyer—Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, CA Laurie R. King—Bookshop, Santa Cruz, CA Scott Lasser—Explore Booksellers, Aspen, CO Stephen White—Tattered Cover Book Store, Devner, CO Kate Niles—Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO Ann Haywood Leal—Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT Florence and Wendell Minor—The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT Rick Atkinson—Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC Les Standiford—Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL Robert Macomber—The Muse Book Shop, Deland, FL David Fulmer—Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA Abraham Verghese—Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA Charlie Brandt—Chapter One Bookstore, Ketchum, ID Luis Alberto Urrea—Anderson’s Bookshops, Naperville, IL Mike Leonard—The Book Stall Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL Albert Goldbarth—Watermark Books, Wichita, KS Wendell Berry—Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY Edith Pearlman—Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA Mameve Medwed—Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA Simon Winchester—The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA Nancy Thayer—Mitchell’s Book Corner, Nantucket, MA Elin Hilderbrand—Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA Jeanne Birdsall—Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA Martha Ackmann—Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA Ward Just—Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA Ron Currie, Jr.—Longfellow Books, Portland, ME Nancy Shaw—Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI Katrina Kittle—Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI Ann Patchett—Mclean & Eakin Booksellers, Petotskey, MI Kathleen Finneran—Left Bank Books, St.Louis, MO Barry Moser—Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS Jack Pendarvis—Square Books, Oxford, MS Jill McCorkle—Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC Carrie Ryan—Park Road Books, Charlotte NC Laurent Dubois—The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC Lee Smith—Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC Angela Davis-Gardner—Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, NC Ron Rash—City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC Ian Frazier—Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ Joan Wickersham—The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH Carmela Ciuraru—Community Bookstore, Brooklyn NY Matt Weiland—Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY Kate Christensen—Word, Brooklyn, NY Mick Cochrane—Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY Caroline Leavitt—McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY Arthur Nersesian—St. Mark’s Bookshop, New York, NY Francine Prose & Pete Hamill—Strand Bookstore, New York, NY Chuck Palahniuk—Powell’s Books, Portland, OR Larry Kane—Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA Ann Hood—Island Books, Middletown, RI Mindy Friddle—Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC Adam Ross—Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN Douglas Brinkley—Book People, Austin, TX Terry Tempest Williams—The King’s English Book Shop, Salt Lake City, UT Robert Goolrick—Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA Howard Frank Mosher—Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT Jon Clinch—Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, VT Jonathan Evison—Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA Tom Robbins—Village Books, Bellingham, WA Sherman Alexie—Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA Garth Stein—Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA Ivan Doig—University Book Store, Seattle, WA Lesley Kagen—Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI Liam Callanan—Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Edited by publishing professional Rice, with an introduction by Richard Russo and an afterword by Emily St. John Mandel, this anthology features essays by 84 writers waxing passionate about their favorite independent bookstores and about the importance of supporting and nurturing these bricks-and-mortar purveyors in an increasingly electronic age. As the tradition of personalized hand-selling is threatened by chain stores and the Amazonian Internet, this cozy collection of love letters to dozens of still-operating independents (from such behemoths as Powell’s in Portland and the Strand in New York to more hidden gems in corners of Kansas, Utah, and Pennsylvania) offers voracious readers hope for the future. The all-star contributors include John Grisham, Chuck Palahniuk, and Ann Patchett, but the true protagonists are the bookstores and the dedicated professionals who bestow them with novel-worthy character. There is Howard Frank Mosher’s Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vt., the only American bookshop to have once had a drive-thru window, and San Francisco’s Booksmith, memorialized in comic strip format by the author/illustrator duo Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown. Though there are moments in the book in which sentimentality rules, the overall goal prevails: to thank, protect, and preserve these cherished spaces. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
This is more than just a celebration, more than just a compendium of bookstore kudos. This is like each of your favorite writers (84 of them!) penning a love letter to their favorite bookstore. Names you may recognize include Dave Eggers, Louise Erdrich, Francine Prose, Lisa See, and Simon Winchester. Editor Rice, a publishing professional, has recruited new pieces that illuminate the quirks and many intangibles that make a great bookstore. From the owner who will trek across town to help out at a library signing, to the fierceness with which some owners protect their customers' privacy, to the overall comfort of stepping into a world that you just know is full of compatriots, the beautiful stories in these pages tell of those things that make any neighborhood bookstore great.

VERDICT: There are other collections that focus on bookstores... but this one is a personal peek into the hearts of the contributing writers as well as into the bookstores they love. Sure to please any bibliophile, even if borrowed from the library!

Kirkus Reviews
A celebration of the independent bookstore by 84 authors who consider them personally and culturally indispensable and who find the ones they favor thriving and vital, despite common impressions to the contrary. Early on, it might seem that too many of these short pieces are repetitive, praising the stores that have hosted and nurtured them as "home," as the "soul of the community" and other phrases that suggest a bygone era in these days of discount mega-stores and cybershopping. Yet the cumulative impact of this handsomely published anthology is not that of a series of survival stories, holdouts against the tidal wave of technology, but of a literary community that continues to flourish and needs these havens of revelation and sharing. The contributors write of being introduced to the work of other included authors by savvy booksellers and forging lifelong friendships. At least two different authors fell in love and ultimately married because of their interactions at an indie bookstore. Two of the more famous novelists (Louise Erdrich and Ann Patchett) own bookstores but write of someone else's as "their" store. (And someone else in turn writes of Patchett's.) Many tell of never leaving an indie bookstore without purchasing something, and most write of discoveries they have found there and/or the thrill of their first reading there. Dave Eggers strikes a characteristic chord: "Maybe it's the feeling that if a bookshop is as unorthodox and strange as books are, as writers are, as language is, it will all seem right and good and you will buy things there. And if you do, it will persist, and small publishers will persist, and actual books will persist. Anyone who wants anything less is a fool." Some of the other contributors include Rick Atkinson, Wendell Berry, Ian Frazier, John Grisham, Pico Iyer, Ron Rash, Tom Robbins, Terry Tempest Williams and Simon Winchester. Everyone who really loves books loves bookstores, and anyone who loves bookstores will appreciate this labor of love.

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Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
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My Bookstore

Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop

Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57912-910-1

Chapter One

Martha Ackmann


When I moved from Missouri to western Massachusetts in 1979, everyone I met had the same two recommendations: You have to try the carrot cake at Chanticleer's, and you have to open an account at the Odyssey Bookshop.

They were right. Chanticleer's carrot cake was delicious—just the right combination of sweet and spicy. I wish that unpretentious coffee shop was still around, but—like so many things—it dissolved into a procession of dull establishments whose names no one could remember.

But the Odyssey?

The Odyssey flourished.

Thank goodness.

The two-story white frame building is the heart and soul of South Hadley, Massachusetts, and a survivor to boot. Not only has the bookstore stood the test of time and marketplace, but it also persevered through two catastrophes that nearly killed it.

I came to western Massachusetts to study Emily Dickinson and attend graduate school in the region's lovely Pioneer Valley—home to Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke colleges and the University of Massachusetts. I bought books at the Odyssey for my literature classes and found myself spending Saturday afternoons in the shop's lower level, sitting on the floor next to shelves of Victorian novels. Back then the Odyssey arranged its books by publisher—an eccentric system, but not unlike bookstores in the United Kingdom. Many of the books I was reading were published by Penguin—all in inexpensive editions with distinctive orange spines. As a marketing device, Penguin color-coded its editions: green for mystery, blue for biography, red for drama, orange for fiction. I loved the Odyssey's oddball organizing scheme. It made me feel like an insider when I cracked the code and descended into the lower level in pursuit of all those orange spines.

But nothing made a book lover feel more like an Odyssey insider than getting to know Romeo Grenier. Romeo, as everyone called him, was the bookshop's owner—a formal-looking gentleman who spoke in low, precise tones and wore a cravat. The book-organizing scheme was his idea and perhaps a nod to all things British. Romeo was an Anglophile through and through: He took tea at four o'clock and thought Middlemarch was the best book ever written. Some store patrons even mistakenly thought Romeo was British; he seemed so proper and—well—starched. But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Romeo came from a family of lumberjacks in the backwoods of Quebec. In 1923, he immigrated to the United States, settled in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and found a job cleaning out the cellar of a local pharmacist. Working for Simon Flynn was a stroke of luck. Over the years, Romeo moved up—literally from the cellar. He helped out in the store, learned the pharmacy trade, and studied for his license. He also took a liking to the boss's daughter. Ten days after Pearl Harbor, Betty Flynn and Romeo Grenier eloped and eventually bought Glesmann's pharmacy in nearby South Hadley. Romeo and Betty sold toothbrushes and shampoo and added a small shelf of books at the front of the store. Romeo couldn't help himself with the books; he already had a personal habit of buying a book a week. As Glessie's book space expanded, more shelves were added, and soon the copies of Thackeray overtook emery boards and Old Spice. Although a pharmacy by name, Glesmann's became the town's literary gathering place. Students and faculty from across the street at Mount Holyoke College congregated at the pharmacy's round table and booths for lively discussions about art, politics, and literature. The College community became so fond of Glessie's that at reunion time, students swung by as if to visit their favorite nook in the library. Romeo Grenier, one professor observed, "resolved to be the most cultivated apothecary since John Keats."

In 1963, the inevitable came to pass. The cough syrup lost and books won. At the urging of Mount Holyoke, Romeo opened the Odyssey Bookshop, a few doors down from Glesmann's. Students and faculty helped pack the pharmacy's stock of books and carry them down the sidewalk to the new shop. For two decades, Romeo, Betty, and the shop's dedicated and knowledgeable staff ran the Odyssey Bookshop, making it not only a popular bookstore but a tourist destination as well. Vacationers who stopped in nearby Amherst during foliage season or parents who visited children at the local colleges came by the Odyssey for a chat with Romeo. Customers loved it when staffers hand-selected books for them and explained why they thought the choice was a good fit. For a region that claimed Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Richard Wilbur as locals, the Odyssey was the very embodiment of what residents valued: Literature was as important as breathing.

That's why it hurt so badly when the unthinkable happened.

In 1985, Joan Grenier, Romeo and Betty's daughter, was in the final months of finishing her degree in history at the University of Massachusetts. With graduate school in mind, Joan sat in an auditorium that December morning with hundreds of other students poring over entrance exams. She was so concentrated on her work that she jumped when an exam official called her name at the end of the testing session. There was an urgent message. A friend, who didn't want Joan to drive home alone past the store, waited at the door. The Odyssey was on fire.

For the next months, Joan worked alongside her 75 year-old father to reopen the bookshop near the spot of the original Glesmann's. The College pitched in too. The theater department offered their set-design talents to decorate the store. Students and faculty filled out stock cards for incoming books. Grateful customers found themselves using the phrase "phoenix rising" to praise the Odyssey's remarkable recovery. But five months later, just as the tulip trees were beginning to bud around campus, a second fire consumed the store and the shops around it. Romeo didn't think he could go through the ordeal of salvaging and reopening another bookstore. Joan stepped in. "I probably didn't know what I was getting into," she admitted. Graduate school went out the window, and over the next year, Joan, the shell-shocked Odyssey staff, and the Mount Holyoke community once again worked to reopen the shop, this time in the hall of the nearby South Hadley Congregational Church. Months later, when a new shopping complex rose from the ashes of the second fire, the Odyssey was the first business to open its doors in the Village Commons opposite the college.

Joan took advantage of the unenviable clean slate before her. She expanded the retail space to nearly 4,000 square feet, organized author readings, instituted a First Editions Club, a Shakespeare Club, and a children's book club. The Odyssey became the spot not only for new books, but also for used and bargain books, and for unique gifts for bibliophiles. When social media became a powerful force in business, the Odyssey created a full-service website for customers to order physical books and e-books. Now the largest independent bookstore in western Massachusetts, the Odyssey hosts over 120 literary and cultural events a year, from Rachel Maddow to Alexander McCall Smith and Stephen King to Rosalynn Carter.

Betty Grenier died in 1989, and Romeo, the "most cultivated apothecary," followed a decade later in 1997. Romeo's portrait hangs prominently on the Odyssey's wall, along with photographs of Glessie's and the store's two fires—a reminder of the indomitable shop's past.

As for me, I finally read all those orange-spined Penguin novels and got up off the Odyssey floor. Like my friend, Joan, my career took a turn that I wasn't quite expecting. After years of teaching at that college across the street, I turned to writing narrative nonfiction books. There's nothing I love more than spending time in archives or traveling to a town where I've never been and interviewing someone I've never met before. When my first book was published, The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight, Joan called me with ideas for the book launch. I'll never forget the night of my first reading. C-Span and my entire softball team showed up, a reader presented me with a baseball cap from Sally Ride's inaugural flight, and Joan introduced me, making friendly jokes about our mutual age and my peripatetic career from Emily Dickinson scholar to space chronicler.

Later that evening, after the wine and those wonderful pastries that always seem to show up at Odyssey events, Joan helped us load the car for the trip back home. It was nearly ten o'clock, practically everyone was long gone, and the Odyssey—still all lit up—looked like a beacon against the dark New England mountains. When I looked back at the store, I couldn't help thinking about Romeo's beloved books crowding out the Old Spice, and I couldn't help feeling grateful for how this wonderful shop has enriched my life. As Joan grabbed a box of party supplies and carried them to the curb, she yelled back at the lone shopper still browsing the new fiction shelves. "Could you watch the store for a minute?" she asked. As the former grad student who loved sitting among the Odyssey shelves, I relished the joy in the customer's reply. "I'd be happy to," she said. "I've been waiting my whole life to be surrounded by books."

Isabel Allende


I am old-fashioned. I believe that one should have a personal doctor, a dentist, a hairdresser, and, of course, a trusted bookstore. I wouldn't think of buying books at random, without my bookseller's recommendation, no matter how good the reviews may be. Fortunately, when I immigrated to the United States twenty-five years ago—because I fell in lust with a guy whom I eventually forced into marriage—I ended up living in Marin County, California. Almost immediately, I found the perfect bookstore. However, to find the proper doctor, dentist, and hairdresser took some time. Book Passage, an independent bookstore in Corte Madera, is only ten minutes away from my home, and it rapidly became my refuge and the extension of my office. The owners, Elaine and Bill Petrocelli, welcomed me with open arms; not because I was a writer, but because I was a neighbor.

Since l987 I've started the tours for each of my books at Book Passage, the favorite place for authors on tour because they get an enthusiastic audience and are treated like celebrities, even when they are not. I have had the opportunity to attend readings by great writers, politicians, scientists, stars, gurus, and many more whom I would never have met elsewhere. I have enjoyed fabulous meals at the Cooks with Books events organized by the store in classy restaurants. Due to the requirements of my job, I am a nomadic traveler. Before any journey I visit the store's great travel section, where I get maps and information, including, for example, where to buy beads in Morocco or where to get the best pasta in Florence.

Book Passage is much more than a store for me: It's the place where I meet friends, journalists, students, readers, and fellow writers; it's where I have my mailbox and an open account for me and my family to buy and to order all our books. As soon as my grandchildren learned to dial a phone they would call the store to order kids' books and then call again if they didn't get them the next day. For years, they were present every Sunday at story hour, and they were the first ones in line, wearing the appropriate outfits, for the fun midnight Harry Potter parties.

Willie Gordon, my husband (yes, the same guy I met a quarter of a century ago), retired as a lawyer and decided to become a writer. I couldn't believe that he intended to compete with me but he persisted. At Book Passage he attended the Annual Mystery Writers Conference and opted for crime novels as the most appropriate genre for him, not because he has a particularly mean streak, but because he knows a lot about law and forensics. He took writing classes and read the books suggested by the staff. To my dismay, Willie has written five novels in the last few years, translated into several languages. Nothing pleases Elaine Petrocelli so much as to see a student at her conferences return a couple of years later to teach as a published author. Willie is just one of many cases. Elaine is the first person to read Willie's manuscripts and review them. Bill helped Willie to publish in the States.

The buyer at Book Passage selects novels, audiobooks, and reader's copies for me. I don't even bother to choose my own reading material! She gave me The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese in manuscript, long before they were published. With the help of the store's knowledgeable staff I have researched sixteen books, including several historical novels and—go figure!—a treatise about aphrodisiacs. Before writing a trilogy for young adults I attended the store's Children's Writers Conference, and later, so that I could learn what kids really like to read, they organized a yearlong kids' book club.

This bookstore is the cultural soul of a large community. It's the place to take writing classes, learn languages, attend conferences, participate in book clubs and speakers' series, and, if you are a teenager, Twitter-talk (whatever that is). Elaine and Bill Petrocelli work with schools, community organizations, and restaurants, they do fund-raising for many causes, and they have a partnership with Dominican University so that students can receive credit for classes and conferences. Their clientele is so loyal that Amazon and the chains have not been able to put them out of business, and, let me tell you, they have tried.

The only place as comforting as a friendly bookstore is probably your grandmother's kitchen. The sight of shelves packed with books of all kinds, the smell of printed paper and coffee, and the secret rustle of the characters that live in the pages warm up any heart. I go to Book Passage to pass the time, to read, to gossip, and to lift my spirit. But I have also gone there to share my sorrow, as I did when I was grieving for my daughter's death. At the store, amidst all those books, many of which were painful memoirs, I realized that I had to write Paula's story, as others had written about their broken hearts before me. During that terrible year of mourning I spent many hours at Book Passage writing by hand, sipping tea, and wiping my tears, supported by my friends at the store who kept me company while respecting my privacy.

Sometimes, when I have a fight with Willie, or when I feel particularly nostalgic, I fantasize about going back to live in Chile, but I know it will never happen—because my dog can't travel so far, and I am not willing to lose Book Passage.


Excerpted from My Bookstore Copyright © 2012 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Ronald Rice has worked in book publishing, as a sales and marketing professional, for more than 25 years. He began his career at Koen Book Distributors and then served as Sales Director/Small Press Buyer for Bookazine, Co. He was a four-time nominee for Publishers Weekly Sales Representative of the Year and has served multi-year terms on both the New England Independent Booksellers Association and Southern Booksellers Alliance advisory councils. He is currently a publishing industry consultant. He lives in Philadelphia, PA.

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