Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Visit to the Bookstore (don't snore)

Way back in my early twenties, I lived in three different houses/apartments over the course of four years, all less than a five-minute walk from the bookstore named on the bag above. It was one of my happy places.* I spent many satisfying evenings browsing the bargain books set out on tables outside and inspecting the new releases inside and to the right. The store hosts author readings and book signings several nights a week, and my dear friend and fellow booklover E... and I were regular attendees, often buying the featured author's book when we felt sorry for him/her that the reading was not better attended. (Side Note: these days, the thought of conjuring pity for someone who had actually finished and then published a book seems kind of comical.) I also enjoyed many meals in the book store's cafe, including a Beef Wellington special that still comes to mind on cold winter evenings.
When I taught a high school elective course called "Bestsellers" (basically, a course devoted to reading for pleasure, not necessarily to reading bestsellers), I took my students on a field trip to this bookstore. Can we pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that I was able to gain permission for the students and I to take a school bus to this bookstore, enjoy a tour and browsing, and then walk across the street for a pizza party in my home before taking the school bus back? That really happened.
Anyway, I love this bookstore but had not visited for years. When I was back in the Cincinnati area with my kids during Bub's spring break, E... and I were planning to get together and decided to meet up at the bookstore for browsing and dinner. We had the most lovely time, making our way through the store, discussing books, considering purchases, and making each other laugh ("a coastal knitters mystery"--that is funny). The last time we had walked through that store together and shared in a meal in that cafe we were young, unmarried high school teachers. Now we are wives and mothers (three children each)--older, wiser, tired-er. The opportunity to be alone with a dear friend and surrounded by books was especially delicious and worth savoring.
I haven't followed all of the reports because I live out of town, but I am pretty sure that my favorite bookstore is in or near bankruptcy. I am hopeful that the store can be salvaged somehow. Admittedly, I do most of my book shopping online these days. Taking my brood into a bookstore is not even a little bit relaxing. Truth be told, I also have a hard time paying full price for a new hardback when I know I can get it for free at the library or for 30% off online. Like so many others, I hate the idea that bookstores are becoming endangered species but do enjoy discounts and, more and more, enjoy ebooks and audiobooks (though, to be clear, I do still buy traditional books and pray that I will always have that option). I also read more reviews than I used to and find that I am seeking out particular titles and authors these days, whereas in the past I tended to browse and take chances.
I tried to do my part to support bookstores that evening and thought you might like to see my purchases.
The books were mostly bargain books:
Street Gang by Michael Davis is a history of Sesame Street that I read a review of years ago and had been wanting to check out.
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton was purchased because, as often happens for me in the bargain book section, I liked the title and cover.
I made one non-bargain book selection (discounted paperback). I had read many positive reviews of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which has since time of purchase won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Not too shabby.
Having devoted six years of my life to researching female friendship, I had to pick up the bargain edition of Friendship Poems since I am diligently continuing my research (when I am not working out). Ahem.
I haven't read any of the books yet, but it's always a happy, hopeful feeling to know there are books waiting to be enjoyed.
I also bought this beautiful collection of cardinal notecards by the late Charley Harper. I am obsessed with cardinals and knew nothing of Charley Harper until I saw these notecards. I have since pored over a website selling Charley Harper prints with the hope that I will someday have a new home in which to feature one or two.
And, in the name of supporting independent bookstores, I also purchased some baby gifts and dinner. Just trying to do my part.
My book buying habits may make for snoring-boring reading (sorry), but I am interested in the topic and would love to know if others' habits have changed over the years as mine have. Have yours? Where do you get your books? How often do you visit bookstores? Do you have a favorite one? Any recent bookstore purchases worth sharing? Are you a sucker for the bargain book section? Please share in the comments.

*Other happy places of that time period include: Graeter's in Hyde Park Square, the "World's Greatest Don Pablos Ever", Bruegger's Bagels, Arthur's patio, the audiobook section of the Oakley Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library, and the now-closed Phar-Mor. I basically could list every eatery in the area, but I will stop for now.


Heather said...

Blogger just ate my well-thought out and very lengthy comment...grr!

Suffice it to say that I, too, love Joseph Beth and their cafe, but I haven't been there in MONTHS. If they go under, it will be so sad.

My local library is the place that receives my business in these spend-thrift days...I love the women that work there, and the fact that they know our names and what we like to read is a treat.

(ps. I love your field trip story. I would've enjoyed that class!)

Tricia said...

I love J-B and am happy to report that after declaring bankruptcy someone bought three of the stores and apparently the Norwood location will remain OPEN! Yay!

I am also in dilemma...I love spending time in bookstores, but hate the prices. I could have written your thoughts about J-B...browsing the bargains and enjoying the food. I am a Gives Back member and probably only shop there now when they have their big sales.

Although I love supporting the local bookstore, I also hate paying so much for the books there when I can get them from the library or from amazon. And often, J-B doesn't have a book I need (particularly for work) and I can get it quicker and cheaper from amazon.

I'm doing a lot more books-on-CD from the library lately. Recent listens were Actor and the Housewife (loved) and The Last Song (not as cheesy as expected). My commute is about an hour a day and the books make it faster.

I enjoy taking the kids to the bookstore or library, but usually with the husband due to the chaos! I am a sucker for kids books and rarely say NO to a bargain purchase (Target $1 bin books are my downfall). We could supply our own kids library, but we also read NUMEROUS books a day at home and keep a basket of them in the car as well.

LAP said...

I don't have many book reading changes, other than that my neighborhood book club is seeing to it that I hit a personal record for most books read in a year.

Mostly this email just makes me smile. I love hearing about your happy memories and your recollection of the beef wellington special cracks me up. I recently bonded with a new friend who instantly knew what I was talking about when I mentioned the best Don Pablos ever.

I recall the field trip and it is amazing to me now that it was ever allowed. I don't remember an all out cleaning of the house in preparation but I guess we tidied up?

Steph said...

Oooh, I understand! And the notecards would have pulled me in.

E... said...

I got all choked up reading this post, savoring all the memories of times spent at JB with you, and loving that you wrote about our recent revisit. I can't go there by myself without thinking of you and missing you so much.
I'm excited I have Olive Kitteridge and Still Alice waiting for me to read as well. I'll be thinking of you as I read them.
So thankful to have you as my book loving dear friend.

CaraBee said...

Blogger just ate my HUGE long comment. Grrr.

CaraBee said...

I've spent countless hours in bookstores, wandering the aisles, sitting in comfy chairs or on the floor between the shelves reading pages from a new find. These days, I spend far more time browsing books online and paper books are fewer and farther between as I get more into my iPad/Nook reading. Which, despite my love for the smell and texture of books, I find myself liking more and more.

I am always saying, though, that we NEED to support the brick and mortar stores. That if we don't, they won't be there anymore and a world with no bookstores isn't one I want to live in. I'm going to go buy a book tomorrow.

I just read a review of A Visit from the Goon Squad and added it to my to-read list. I'll be interested to hear what you think of it.

E... said...

I left a longish comment a couple of days ago, but now it's not here. Mostly just wanted to say how thankful I am for you as a book-loving friend, and how much I miss haunting the aisles of bookstores with you. (I might even grade a paper or two if it meant hanging out in a B&N cafe). This post choked me up. Thanks for writing it.

Stacia said...

I'm a reserve-it-at-the-library-and-wait-three-weeks-till-it's-my-turn-and-then-pick-it-up-in-the-drive-through kind of girl. I love that my library has a drive-through window. Because dragging three kids into the library when it's not storytime and there aren't many other kids wiping snot on shiny book spines or clamoring up to make-believe use the automated check-out machine isn't really that fun.

Or I use Amazon. Sorry, brick-and-mortar bookstores!

I do love the bargain bin. We have a chain called Half-Price Books that I do frequent. Kids books for $1? Yes, please!

Teachinfourth said...

I don't know as if I'd read any of those particular titles; however, new books are always a treat, aren't they?

Lady Jennie said...

I've always loved reading. Right now I'm reading Eat, Pray Love and A Suitable Boy.

dusty earth mother said...

I love books. Call me old-fashioned but a book store is still one of my favorite places in the world, and to think that they are all failing because of computers (a simplification of the facts, obviously) hurts my heart. Wish I could go book-shopping with you, Mep.

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