I think that I still have it in my heart someday to paint a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the evening…like a light in the midst of the darkness.
–Vincent van Gogh
I’m lucky, living in Portland. This little-big city is alive with culture — food and music and art and fashion (believe or not, we have fashion week) and one of the best independent bookstores in the country: Powell’s.
I’m fond of Powell’s, don’t get me wrong, but my favorite bookshop is my neighborhood venue: Annie Bloom’s Books. It’s small and intimate with handwritten signage all over the place: Staff Favorites, New and Notable, Recommended. Unlike Powell’s, which is a tourist attraction and multi-level warehouse with a kazillion ever-changing college-student employees, the Annie Bloom’s staff knows books and welcomes us readers in with smiles and hellos. Since space is at a premium, they choose their books carefully. There’s even a shop cat.
On Saturday night, I went to Annie Bloom’s’ (there’s a punctuation question for you — add another possessive apostrophe?) 30th anniversary reception.
I wore my name tag and spoke to the curly-haired bookseller who organizes the readings. And, of course, I had to buy a book. I picked up a most appropriate and pretty little paperback called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, opened to a random page, and read this:
“Decades ahead of other book retailers, Upstart Crow’s owners had created something of a theme park, where the atmosphere…was as much a draw as the merchandise…and summoning the tradition of the English coffeehouse–shades of Dr. Johnson, The Tatler, those who made the eighteenth-century coffeehouse an institution–Upstart Crow brought the first espresso bar to our neck of the woods.”
Talk about a serendipitous moment. The “our neck of the woods” was my hometown of Mill Valley, California, and I remembered Upstart Crow. In fact, my love of bookshops (not to mention coffeehouses) started with Upstart Crow back in high school. I thought I was so sophisticated and intellectual hanging out there. That’s where I discovered the smell of new books. I’d crack open the spines and sniff away. If anything, all that inadvertent glue-sniffing solidified my love of books.
Where did your love affair with bookshops start?
I’ll end on another quote from Buzbee:
“Books, I knew then and now, give body to our ideas and imaginations, make them flesh in the world; a bookstore is the city where our fleshed-out inner selves reside.”