The Bookstores

We’d read about another book store to check out in Eugene. “Better than Smith Family Bookstore,” they claimed.

Photo: Smith Family Bookstore, Eugene, Oregon

What? Better than Smith?

We love Smith. A re-purposed fire station, it reeks with books. Attempts to organize the books are ongoing. Well, they are organized, but they spill out everywhere.

We checked out J. Michaels Books, on Broadway. It’s a good book store, and well worth an hour of browsing, but it would not supplant Smith for us.

We drove on to Barnes and Nobles on our book quest – the last resort in our efforts to find several books. I know I’m a writer. I’m supposed to make money from selling books. But my wife likes finding used books, reading them, and then selling them to another book store for credit.

I’m ambivalent about that. She and I enjoy reading. We’re spreading the wealth by keeping used books in circulation. And, we’re sparing the environment (some) by keeping the need to publish more books down. But, we know we could do more to reduce books’ impacts on the environment by going digital, but…sigh…we’re in love with the feel, smell and practice of reading physical books. It goes beyond logic.

All that book store visiting prompted thinking about which book store is my favorite. First, what makes a good book store? Books, of course – selection, prices, condition. But there’s often more. A spirit of reading and writing is embedded in the best book stores.

Powell’s Books in Portland remain marginally in first place on my list. One, talking with the folks working there, you can tell that they enjoy books. Two, it’s so damn big and impressively organized. Used and new books co-exist for sale. Both are reasonably priced.

Second place is more difficult. I like, on equal levels, Bloomsbury Books and Bookwagon New and Used Books in Ashland, but I also like Smith Family Bookstore in Eugene. I guess I mark the three establishments as tied for second. All have knowledgeable, book-friendly personnel working there. Bookwagon is the smallest, but we enjoy the owner, Karl.

In third place, then, is another Ashland book store, the Book Exchange. Dark and crowded with tall shelves of books, the Book Exchange feels like an old book store, and offers excellent prices and selections.

In ranking my book stores, I dismissed things like coffee shops, pastries, parking and locations. They’re just nice accouterments to a proper book store, but it’s really about the books.

What about you, readers and writers? Are there any book stores that draw your love and loyalty?



2 thoughts on “The Bookstores

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  1. There are NO bookstores around here. I’m not exaggerating: the closest place with any bookstores would be about two hours away, assuming there are any in Lubbock, Texas.

    Things I look for in a bookstore: The people working there actually LIKE books of some sort. The store has more books than it has merchandise having nothing to do with books. (It makes sense for a bookstore to carry book marks and fancy bookends. Maybe even coffee mugs with books quotes on them. It doesn’t make sense for a bookstore to carry flip-flops and sunglasses and toy sets for building sandcastles.) There should also be a large sci-fi/fantasy section than is NOT mostly taken over by paranormal erotica.

    When I lived in Lexington, Kentucky (I haven’t been there in more than a decade), there was a rather good store called Joseph-Beth Booksellers. That was the place to go for NEW books. For used books, there was Squecial Media (no, that’s not a typo — the name is spelled with a q instead of a p), although some people would refuse to shop there simply because “it’s where all those hippies shop.” (Actually, the hippies mostly shopped at Bear’s Wax, downstairs from Squecial, which was also where the gothlings went for some of their wardrobe. Squecial was more popular with neo-pagans, because that store sold incense and whatnot, which is why a search for used sci-fi books would result in smelling like patchouli and sandalwood for a couple of hours afterward.) If looking for RPG books in particular, the place to go was The Rusty Scabbard. They were a game store, not a bookstore, but the bookstores avoided carrying RPG books for fear of offending rabid mundanes. (The manager of the closet-sized Waldenbooks at one of the malls was herself a rabid mundane who said snarky things to customers who bought sci-fi novels, and I was working there the day she ran off a couple of teenagers for asking about D&D books…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your points for what makes a bookstore. It surprised me at J. Michael’s that a science fiction and fantasy section didn’t exist. Some of those genres were included in the literature/fiction section.

      At B&N, I was amazed to see that the Graphic Novel and Manga sections were much larger than the science fiction and fantasy sections.

      Sqecial Media, with a q but without a u, still seems to exist. Probably still frequented by those damn hippies.

      Can’t imagine living in a town without a book store. That’s one of our requirements for seeking out a new habitat.

      Of course, your anecdote about the rabid mundane had me laughing. Thanks for an enjoyable comment. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

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