The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day, which is to say: this Saturday.
Which means you should take the extra time, if possible, to hit such a bookstore this weekend — remember, you can find them via Indiebound.org — and if you don’t have one near you, don’t forget too that many will ship books directly to you.
So, I thought I’d take some time to talk about why I love indie bookstores — and, now, this is with the caveat that an indie bookstore is not automagically amazing just by dint of its existence. I’ve been to several that were very anti-genre, or were not friendly, or were overall standoffish both in presence and in their design. But that is the exception, not the norm.
Here then, is why I dig me some indie bookstores:
1. They Tend To Contain Actual People Who Love Them Some Motherfucking Books.
Listen, I’m sure there are bookstore employees who don’t give a rat’s salty butthole about books, but in general, I go to an indie store, I am met with people who are there because they want to work somewhere that they can be surrounded by the sweet natal embrace of the book-womb.
Bonus: the people who work there are also bonafide bibliowizards. (Same can be said of most librarians, too.) They know books. They read them. They can recommend them. They can handsell them, spreading the precious BOOK VIRUS ha ha what I didn’t say there’s a book virus, YOU said there was a book virus. Now here read this book. *you are now infected by books*
But seriously, bookstore employees are magical beings. They may not be real, and if they are, they are likely too good for this world and must be protected.
2. Um, They Actually Sell Books
I got no problem with bookstores that sell not-books — hey, I like stuffed animals and widgets and tchotchkes and book-themed dildos the same as any other RED-BLOODED AMERICAN (wait what?), but you know, I also want books in a bookstore, and indie bookstores tend to be very good ways to show them off and sell them.
Which is great for me as an author.
And even better for me as a reader and as someone raising a kid who will be a reader, too.
3. They Are Community Facing
Amazon is not community facing. They’re just not. They can’t be, because they’re not in a physical space (their kinda-creepy bookstores notwithstanding). And I say that as someone who sells books there and who has a Prime subscription, same as you, I’d bet. But they’re just not there for the community — and one of the things that’s fantastic about books is that, if you care to connect to it, books come with a bookish community.
And what I mean are: people that read, people that write, people that wanna talk about books, people that wanna talk to weirdo-beardo authors who write stories about pissed-off psychic ladies and cool wars in the stars. Bookstores host book clubs and author signings and panel discussions and they, like libraries, are a nexus of that community, bringing bookish folk from all around to share in the book virus WHOA no nuh-uh I did not say book virus, this time I’m really sure it was you that said it. Shut up.
Point is, bookstores are also Book Community Centers.
Go there and be one with the bookishness.
4. OMG, Some Of Them Have Bars
Okay, I know this isn’t all bookstores or even a majority of them, but fuck it, it’s still a thing. And increasingly so! Changing Hands has the First Draft Bar. Or the Wild Detectives in Dallas! Or BookBar in Denver! Or the lovely BookCellar in Chicago! Seriously, it’s a thing. Google it. If I can go to a bookstore and buy a book, get a coffee, or drink a fancy-ass cocktail? Pretty sure that’s what actual heaven looks like.
(Hell, on the other hand, is a defunct Hoboken Toys-R-Us full of wasps and broken prequel-era Star Wars toys. You go there when you don’t buy books, so buy more books and avoid Hell.)
5. A Great Indie Bookstore Feels Like Home
A good bookstore is like a room full of pillows for your mind and for your imagination. The shelves may not match, the decor may be weird, the people may be infected by a book virus, but it always feels like home. They radiate pure book-love. They make you wanna read books. Hundreds of narrative rabbit-holes awaiting for readers of every age. A good bookstore is an astonishing place — it’s cheesy as fuck, I know, but I am never not overtaken with the glorious vertigo of a bookstore, where you’re presented with an unholy host of new adventures and ideas, with new ones coming in every week.
So, hie thee and thine ass hence to a bookstore. Forthwith.
Buy a book.
Read a book.
Join the book virus.
BECOME PART OF THE BOOKSTORE LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY AS YOUR FLESH MERGES WITH THE SHELVES AND — ha ha ha oh you know ol Chuck Wendig he’s just being silly again this is definitely not a thing that happens, ahem.
*eyelids are pages*
(Oh, and here is where I am crass and selfish and I remind you that if you want books signed by me and procured from a great indie store, you can order them from Let’s Play Books in Emmaus, PA, at this link. They will ship ’em right to you.)
So now I turn it over to you, Bookish Readers.
What are your favorite indie bookstores?