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?