Time for another National Bookshop Day, given my last posts were in 2013 and 2012. In those posts I named some of my favourite Canberra bookshops, particularly the National Library Bookshop, Paperchain and Beyond Q (secondhand booksellers). They are still among my favourites, but, since then, two more excellent bookshops have opened, Muse (which runs Festival Muse about which I’ve written several times) and Harry Hartog Booksellers. Both these stores sell new and secondhand books, making them extra special. What great choice we have in Canberra!
This bookshop day, I may not get to a bookshop, as I’ll be on the road between Sydney and Mollymook, so I’m including pictures from one we visited this week in Port Macquarie. I hadn’t heard of Book Face before, but the website explains that it is “a small group of local, independent bookstores whose first store opened its doors in November 2014. Owned by Paul and Leo Berkelouw”. If you don’t know the Berkelouws, and are interested in them, check out the family’s two-century plus history of bookselling on the Berkelouw website.
Book Face is an inviting smallish bookshop, with a lovely little cafe at its entrance. (You know how I love Muse with its excellent restaurant!) We enjoyed wandering about its bookshelves – and facing out Nigel Featherstone’s Bodies of men while doing so! Never let a chance go by is my motto when seeing Aussie authors in bookshops. Pleasingly, a couple of other Aussies (Trent Dalton and Peggy Frew) were already face out (as you might see in the pic). It was also heartening to see some Aussie authors in the little display of staff picks on the shop’s counter. Good one Book Face.
And now, for something completely different …
I don’t know of many Australian author-owned bookshops but there are several in the USA. Here’s a list of those I know (in alphabetical order by author name):
- Judy Blume’s Books & Books, Key West, Fl (opened 2016): Blume, of course, is an extremely popular writer of children’s and young adult books. Her shop is a not-for-profit centre “that provides studio space for local artists, a residency program for visiting artists, galleries, and classes” as well as selling books.
- Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books and Native Arts, Minneapolis, Mn (opened 2010): Erdrich (whom I’ve reviewed recently) opened this small independent bookstore with her daughters. It specialises in Native American literature, has “indigenous-language guides, literature and crafts, alongside the latest best sellers”, and a toy-filled play area!
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights, San Francisco, Ca (opened 1953): Ferlinghetti, an American poet who turned 100 this year, opened his store and publishing company with college friend, Peter Dean Martin. The shop was aligned with their left-leaning politics and aimed to “break literature out of its stuffy, academic cage”. The current manager says that they don’t sell or publish bestsellers!
- Jeff Kinney’s An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass (opened 2015): Kinney is the author of the very popular Wimpy Kid books. The article announcing his shop’s establishment explains his aim as being to help the book trade. He plans to be somewhat hands-on, including offering cartooning workshops at the store. It has a healthy cafe too!
- Alison Lester Gallery/Bookshop, Fish Creek, Vic (opened 2014): Lester is a popular Australian children’s picture book author and illustrator. Her shop, unlike the others I’ve included here, only sells her own books and art work, but as she’s the only Australian author-owner I could find, and the only one of the shops that I’ve visited, I’m including it!
- Jonathan Lethem’s Red Gap Books, Blue Hill, Me (opened 2009): American novelist Lethem is co-owner of this used books shop, which is named for a 1935 film, Ruggles of Red Gap, loved by the shop’s owners!
- Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up, Archer, Texas (est. orig. in Washington DC, 1970): Bestselling author of Lonesome Dove and other books, McMurtry sells used books. The Archer store is apparently one of the largest used bookstores in the USA. McMurtry is quoted on the site as saying “Few books are rare; we have handled only a handful in 44 years in the trade. But many books are attractive. Customers come to us from wherever the four winds blow.” Love it.
- Ann Patchett’s Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tn (opened 2011): Award-winning novelist of books like Bel canto, Patchett is co-owner of Parnassus Books, which the two women established when Nashville suddenly lost both its bookstores. You can read the story (with links to more) on the shop’s website. It’s all about two passionate people believing they could do what corporations couldn’t or wouldn’t in Nashville!
- Emma Straub’s Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY (opened 2017): Unknown-to-me novelist and short story writer Straub opened this shop with her husband, largely because their local bookshop had closed. (Rather like Patchett.) Like many of the bookshops I’ve listed, this offers author events and is keen to engage the local community. Straub says that their “bookselling philosophy is that books are magic. And that we are nonjudgmental and we aim to be encouraging.”
I’ll leave you with Ann Patchett’s passionate statement about books bookshops and social change:
Amazon doesn’t get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.
Couldn’t say it better myself.
Now, can you add to the list? From anywhere in the world?