Scheming ideas about where to get your holiday books this season (and by that I mean pick out what books your loved ones will get you)? Bookstr’s got you. Here’s some bookstore buying recos from the best.
Roxane Gay – The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles
Image courtesy of Last Book Store
“This is a tough choice because there are many I am fond of, but The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. It is such a strange, quirky space that feels different each time.”
Hanya Yanagihara – Three Lives and Company, New York
Image courtesy of Trover
“Three Lives & Company, in New York’s West Village, is the kind of tiny, cheery bookshop that exists only in movies, and that people come to New York hoping to find (well, I did). If you go at 5 p.m. on any weekend, there’s a lovely, two-glasses-of-rosé kind of intimacy that settles in, an impromptu salon of regulars, the very well-read bookselling staff, and tourists all talking books.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates – Eso Won Books, Los Angeles
Image courtesy of Los Angeles Times
“My favorite bookstore is the one I get to see the least these days: Eso Won Books in Los Angeles. I’m a child of the Black Power movement raised on the notion that the black diaspora was not just in need of its own particular politics, but of its own particular canon. Whereas other writers built themselves on Proust, Niebuhr and Camus, I was schooled by Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer and C.L.R. James.
Eventually I grew to understand that Dead White Men were more than that, and that my canon had to be more than a political statement. But my roots are what they are, and when you grow up in a world that denigrates those roots, they tend to grow deep.
Eso Won is one among a long tradition of black bookstores that sprang up to water those roots. It is part of the larger community of independent bookstores that writers celebrate, but its specific mission is to make sure black authors always have a home. This is important to me, not because it’s the world that I spring from but because it is the river I continue to drink from. On tour for my first book, I spent a solid hour there not just perusing the books but getting recommendations on what to read. I came home with Paula J. Giddings’s awesome biography of the pioneering investigative journalist Ida B. Wells, ‘Ida: A Sword Among Lions.’ While I knew Giddings’s work before then, it was the conversation I had in the bookstore that sold me on it.
In much the same way we need diversity among authors and editors, we need diversity among the ranks of booksellers. They are the ultimate arbiters of our literary tradition. In these coming dark times, we can scarcely afford to be without them.”
Dave Eggers – Green Apple Books, San Fransico
Image courtesy of Melville House Books
“I’ve known [the owners] for about fifteen years now, and I have to say there are no purer book people in the world. … The crazy thing about Green Apple is that everything, even a cat calendar, seems far more interesting and wantable in their hands.”
Juan Gabriel Vásquez – San Librario, Bogotá
Image courtesy of El Pulgero
“The place is small and irregular in shape. From the outside, it looks as if a door has been carelessly left open in a house with a brick facade and barred windows. Bookshelves cover the walls as you enter; in the center of the small room there’s a desk that I can’t describe, because books always hide it — hide its surface, of course, but also its front and sides, so that the bookseller seems to greet you from within a trench of printed pages.
Álvaro Castillo, the sole proprietor of San Librario, always keeps his door open, but it is not really a welcoming gesture: It is just that the place is so small that the smell of old paper would make breathing difficult.
San Librario is a celebrated, yet almost secret, secondhand bookstore in northern Bogotá. It is unpredictable, both in its contents and in the way they are displayed, which makes browsing an adventure of uncertain outcome. More than once I have wandered in looking for a Colombian out-of-print novel and found, literally next to it, that early translation of a Russian political essay I had been looking for. All this happens under the bemused eyes of the bookseller, who mysteriously, telepathically, is sharing your curiosity, participating in your discoveries.”
Emma Straub – Brooklyn’s Bookcourt, New York
Image courtesy of NY Times
“I worked at Brooklyn’s BookCourt for four years, so I feel an allegiance to them, partly because I already know where everything is. But I also feel devoted to Greenpoint/Jersey City’s WORD, because they are the coolest and best, and I also feel devoted to Park Slope’s Community, because they are the closest to my house and so I am there most often. How about I choose the Bank Street Children’s Bookstore, on the Upper West Side, or Books of Wonder, near Union Square? Oh, Mental Floss. I can’t choose.”
Pete Hamill – Strand Bookstore, New York
Image courtesy of NYPost
“On days of rain or snow, I could vanish into its shelves and tables, examining the endless literary treasures… I’ve lived long enough now to see my own books on those hallowed shelves. But when I left the Strand in those early days, I joined many others, not all of them writers, who rode home on the shoulders of giants.”
Ann M. Martin – The Golden Notebook, Woodstock
Image courtesy of the Larb
“The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, New York, is small but carries a wide variety of titles, has a dedicated and involved staff of book lovers, champions local authors, and is a vibrant part of the community, sponsoring many author events. Books of Wonder in New York City is a children’s-only bookstore with shelf after shelf of new titles and classics, a special interest in L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, a tantalizing case of old and rare books, and a passionate owner who regularly brings together children’s authors and illustrators.”
Ann Patchett – McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey
Image courtesy of Collections
“I walked into the bookstore of this dreamy little town and at that moment all the other bookstores I’d known in my life fell away… Books and bookstores are really the only things I can speak to with authority. And so I say to you absolutely: McLean & Eakin, Petoskey, Michigan — go.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Jazzhole, Lagos
Image courtesy of Black Fabulosity.
“The Jazzhole is a bookstore, a music store, a cultural haven. It is a space reverential of stories and history. Its casual, lived-in charm encourages browsing, and I have discovered beloved books there — books about Africa, in particular. It is also the place in Lagos to go to for new British and American book releases. I have attended live music events there, with the bookshelves pushed back to fit in seating. I have had delicious cake and fresh juice from the tiny cafe at the back.
It feels human, it feels like a place warmly welcoming of all kinds of people. If you’re lucky, you might run into the owners, Kunle and Tundun Tejuosho. Kunle, quiet and introverted, a walking archive of African music, and Tundun, warm and exuberantly intelligent. Genuine people and genuine lovers of culture.”
What’s your favorite bookstore? Share it with us in the comments!