For the Love of Independent Bookstores

As mentioned in a previous blog my husband and I always make it a point to visit independent bookstores in the towns we visit.  This is a tradition born long before we decided to open our own shop and probably the major motivation in doing so.   Well thanks to my ultra-observant husband I have now discovered there are entire tribes of people for whom this is a major aspect of travel planning.  You see we were in a lovely restaurant on the shore of Lake Superior, and if you are in the area I HIGHLY recommend you check out The New Scenic Café in Duluth, Minnesota – the food is FANTASTIC!  Anyway after waiting for our table while sitting outside enjoying the lovely weather and talking football with strangers we were shown to our table at the same time another traveling couple was shown to theirs adjacent to us.  Somehow or another my husband noticed the gentleman’s T-shirt , which from my view simply said “Prairie Lights” but apparently somewhere on the back he came to know that it was from an independent bookstore…  in Iowa.  So naturally conversation ensued.  They mentioned that they travel often and always visit independent bookstores, we responded that we did the same and actually had recently opened our own.  Turns out the lady’s father grew up in Lockport, Louisiana but neither has ever visited our state.  I am happy to say I think we are now on their bucket list!   AND, they told me about several more shops that are now on MY Bookstore Bucket List! 

This got me to thinking, even though we have visited quite a few independent bookstores I still have some pretty great ones on that list so I think it is time I publish the list here.  You know, once something is written down and put “Out There” I will have no choice but to actually go.  And, I welcome suggestions of bookstores to add to the list. Let’s make this interactive and maybe take a field trip or two!

So here it is So Far….

Missy’s Bookstore Bucket List:

Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi

The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado

I am SO willing to add to this list so send me your suggestions!

* I have plenty of other favorite shops : Garden District, Octavia and Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL and Shakespeare & Company in Paris to name just a few but since I have visited them all in the past they no longer qualify – strictly speaking – for inclusion on my Bucket List of Book Shops  I have yet to visit.

 

And while we are talking about travel let’s talk about the books I read while traveling.  This trip was a very laid back, relaxing kind of trip with plenty of time for reading so my list for a trip of barely over a week is a bit long and rather varied. 

I started by reading Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s pretend This Never Happened”.  If you have not read anything by Jenny Lawson you are denying yourself a good laugh, this chick is FUNNY!   It is a very “stream of consciousness“ styled memoir , which makes sense when you realize she is a blogger.  She admits that this is only a “Mostly True Memoir” which is good because if this much ridiculousness happened to one person I would be seriously concerned for both their safety and sanity. 

I followed that book with one recommended by a friend recently. Mrs. Nancy Vinci was in the bookshop a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that she had been listening to “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole while on a recent road trip. When she told a friend she was laughing so hard she had to pull the car over her friend suggested she next check out “Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta” by Richard Grant, so naturally I immediately ordered it for the shop and took a copy with me on the trip.    Richard Grant is an Englishman and a journalist who had found himself living in New York and ends up travelling to the Mississippi Delta.  Of course he fell in love with the south and ends up buying an old plantation home and transplanting himself to The Delta, as you might imagine the cast of characters, the scenery and the culture clashes combine to make a truly enjoyable book.  So much so I found myself writing a fan note and asking the author if he is ever in our area before I even finished the book!  If you love southern literature like A Confederacy of Dunces, and the works of Walker Percy where wit combines with southern charm then this book is a MUST READ and I am including the synopsis from the publisher at the end of this blog to convince you!

After Dispatches I picked up a Bookshot, Bookshots are a series of short books James Patterson is putting out intended to be read in one sitting.  This one was an Alex Cross 150 page thriller called Cross Kill.  It lived up to its promise.  It was a fast paced, thrilling romp through the suburbs of DC with our favorite detective.  Of course it ended with lots of loose ends…but I am sure there will be a follow up.

Finally, the last book I started on the trip was “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed.  This book was turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon a couple of years ago, I like Reese so I decided to read the book.  I have still not finished the book so I cannot give you a full review but I can say that by page 50 I thought I might be forced to brake a long standing pet peeve and actually NOT FINISH a book I had started.  You see the writing and emotion is so raw in the opening chapters that I could not see the pages for the tears streaming down my face.  And not just happy, reading, cleansing tears – these were out loud, ugly cry tears.  The trauma that brings Ms. Strayed to decide to hike the Pacific Coast Trail threatened to keep me from finishing the book.  But I soldiered on, and I am happy to report that I am now at a point in the book where she is on the trail and hiking and I honestly cannot wait to read on and see what happens next.  I feel like I am on the trail with her – except without all the blisters, missing toenails, extreme weather, bears, etc. (Thank Heavens!). 

 

So don’t forget to send me your suggestions for my Book Store Bucket List by writing to me at : Missy@conundrumbooks.com  and here is the review of Dispatches from Pluto I promised:

Winner of the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize
Mississippi's #1 Bestseller of 2015 (The Clarion-Ledger)
A New York Times Bestseller
In Dispatches from Pluto, adventure writer Richard Grant takes on the most American place on Earth the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta.
Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.
On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta s lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families and good reasons for hope.
Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It s lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer s flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It s also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America."

 

Closing Thought :

“ If I died tonight, I can say that I have travelled this whole world over and got lost in many others.  I have explored space, fought in the Hunger Games with Katniss and defeated Lord Voldemort with Harry.  My life has been full of magic and adventure because of one thing: books.  They were the doors that took me anywhere and everywhere I wanted to go.”  

-        A Book Lover