Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's your favorite bookstore?

by Brittany Geragotelis

Growing up, I used to love going to the mall. But it wasn't Hot Topic or Rave that drew me was Waldenbooks. I spent what was my life savings (at the time) on books that I'd buy by the dozens, every time I had the opportunity to go to the mall. I loved how bright and clean it was in the bookstore. I especially loved taking a book down off its shelf and popping a squat right there in the isle and thumbing through my newest treasure. I liked that the books I wanted were so easy to find, because everything had its place. And I liked seeing what books they had on display in the YA section. My favorite author at the time was Christopher Pike—he was the only author who could make my terrified and sad, all in the same book.

My friend Kate and I were walking uptown after work yesterday and were having a pretty intense conversation about this very topic. She shared with me that there's a little independent bookstore back in her hometown in Texas that she and her family grew up going to. At her bookstore, patrons get to attend small book signings where they received individual attention from literary greats. There were rocking chairs spread out throughout the store and Kate loved the fact that the patrons knew the owners and vice versa. For her, this bookstore was a safe haven, a place her family experienced wonderful things.

My point is that everyone seems to have a favorite bookstore, along their own special memories and feelings about them. So, on this topic of bookstores, I recently read this feature on the Huffington Post ranking the Top 10 bookstores in the world. From old theaters to former cathedrals, these bookstores really are cooler than anything you'd find in a book.

Here are two of my favorites:

photos from Huffington Post

The Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal

Poplar Kid's Republic, Beijing

What's your favorite bookstore? What do you love about it? Better yet, which of these bookstores would you want to visit? Leave your comments below!



Unknown said...

After many years, the bookstore Connections closed in Fort Worth. It closed without any fanfare. I found out after it was too late to get to Texas. I really cannot believe it. The owner, Peggy has watched me grow from infancy. When I graduated high school and college, she sent me cards. It's where I rushed to get each and every Harry Potter and got free advance copies of books given only to sellers. Connections held an annual Christmas party with authors at the local botanical gardens and fizzy drinks. It was a little girl-book- lover's-wonderland! There’s something to going out of my way to go to the bookstore to buy it from Peggy at Connections--she would give a discount to customers who did that cause she full well knew we could go to Barnes and Noble or Borders any hour of the day. When one of the women died who worked there for 20 years, the customers mourned with Peggy; it was like part of the bookstore disappeared. I think my dad went to the funeral.

The one in San Antonio, Rosengrens, was hip and cool in the 60s-70s where the literati hung out and mingled with the political and social-minded mavericks of the day-- governors, columnists, home-grown celebs, poets and cowboy novelists. It closed around the time I was born, but the people who ran it, Florence Rosengren (a grand dame) and her son Figgie and his wife Cam loved me and showered me with books before I was born. They had a party when my mom was pregnant with me and mom got a book of poetry by Naomi Shihab Nye, a remarkable poet, who was pregnant with her son at the same time. She autographed the book to me in my mom's tummy. Years later I met her for an 8th grade project not knowing who she was and she came to my school to read poems! I visited Cam and Figgie a few months ago; Figgie was a Hollywood screenwriter among many other things. We just sat for hours and talked about the world. Their lives and careers revolved around friends and ideas, current events and people who made history. Figgie died a few months ago, and it seems like I just saw him.

We have dozens of stories like those. For my parents and me, bookstores aren't just places to buy books-they're sites of identity and fellowship with other readers. My parents read to me before I was born and stocked my baby room with books. My mother has all my children's books. As a child and adult, I clung to the possibility of finding something unexpected going into Connections because Peggy always was reading something or knew about a new book. On the back wall of the store were all the pictures of kids through the years who frequented the bookstore. There were toddler pictures of me and so many others, up through graduations and weddings and family photos. If business can be personal and have a role in the formation of one's idea of oneself, it was this place.
--Kate Chapman, loyal fan of Brittany and whatever she does

Anonymous said...

I love books. I've always had my nose in a book since I can remember. Books are a great escape and anyone who knows me knows that a book is the best gift I can get. When I was in China a few years ago I went to Kid's Republic to find a book to bring back for my little brother. The entire store is broken up into different areas and it was amazing and refreshing to see all these young children reading books instead of playing video games or watching TV.

Brittany said...

You can tell that your bookstores were very dear to you. Whenever you can find a safe haven, happy place, it's a special gift.

I love your description of Kids Republic! It sounds like so much fun and definitely a place I'd love to visit. Maybe someday....

Thanks for sharing, guys!