Each Thursday, to celebrate #IndieThursday, I’ve asked authors, bloggers, readers & other lovers of books to write about how independent bookstores have influenced their lives, or the lives of those around them. Today I’m pleased to welcome Alma Katsu, author of The Taker.
THE VICARIOUS DREAM
Book people are pretty much the same. Like me, you probably went to the library a lot when you were a kid. Maybe you were introverted and books became your friends, maybe you came from a restrictive household and books were your means of escape. You start to notice that you like to hang out in bookstores. In the small town in which I grew up, that meant a store downtown that sold a narrow selection of books and magazines along with stationery, gum and gifts. When you go on vacation, you visit the bookstores in town. More often than not, you read a book before going to sleep. You might listen to audiobooks when you drive, or knit, or when you’re on the treadmill or power-walking through the neighborhood. Unlike your neighbors and co-workers who congregate over coffee to talk about last night’s episode of American Idol, you want to talk to someone about the last book you read.
There’s one other trait book people have in common. When you dream about retirement, you don’t think about raising poodles or going to Boca Raton. You dream about opening a bookstore. You pick out the perfect neighborhood for it in your area, or you do a little idle research to find a place you’d move to, if you had the money. You spend your allotted time to daydream outfitting and decorating the store, and deciding what events you’d host in your spaces. Book club evenings, of course. Children’s story hour on the weekends. A bridge night? Chess club? Why not? It’s your store. You decide whether or not to offer food: just coffee? Baked goods? Or go whole hog, with sandwiches and snacks? Before too long you’ve dreamed yourself a bookstore and café. A lot of work, but why not? It’s just a dream.
And it’s a nice dream, but it’s likely to stay a dream, because who among us has the nerve to make it a reality? To learn how to run a bookstore, hassle with leases and permits, take the financial risk? No, for most of us it’s a secret pleasure, a thought that more than makes us happy: it reaffirms our faith that there will be a gentle space for us in the world, filled with our favorite things.
For that, you can thank an independent bookstore. For shouldering the risk, or keeping the lights on and the chairs comfy. For stocking the books, and shipping returns to the distributors and ordering more books. For dusting the shelves, making the pot of coffee, paying the taxes and keeping the doors open. For always giving book people a place they go, to forget about the world for a while and be immersed in a good book and in great company.
Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker (Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster), released on 6 September. This post is a paean of thanks to One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia, which has come to nurture many readers and writers since its opening at the start of the year.
If you are in Northern Virginia, be sure to stop by One More Page Books tonight for the release party of Alma’s debut novel, THE TAKER!
Participation in #IndieThursday is simple: just visit your local independent bookstore, either in person or online. Tweet what you purchased, as well as the name of the store, using the hashtag #IndieThursday. Help celebrate indie bookstores!
If you would like to do a guest post on how independent bookstores have influenced your life, please email me at jennsbookshelfATgmailDOTcom.