When I travel, I make it my personal mission to visit either a bookstore or library in each place. I strongly believe in supporting independent bookstores, starting with my local favorite, Blue Willow Books, in Houston. So today, I want to give a shout-out to some of the bookstore bests from my travels so far this year.
In late December (I'm counting this as 2014 since the visit was on the cusp of the new year), my niece took my daughters and me to the stellar Elliott Bay Book Company in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. With high ceilings and wooden floors, the bookstore felt airy and light. We spent a pleasant hour making our selections on a Sunday morning after a delicious brunch next door at Oddfellows.
Of course, I made several visits and purchases at my Mississippi favorite, Square Books in Oxford. The bookstore has THREE locations on the Square in Oxford - a young people's store, Square Books, Jr.; a discount store, Off Square Books; and the venerable two-story location on the prime corner in this literary city. Richard Howorth, the owner and a friend, is often around and it's wonderful to talk books with him. This spring I bought a very special book there titled, The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists by my old professor, William Ferris. This wonderful collection includes a CD and DVD.
I was lucky enough to go to Asheville, NC a couple of times this year and no visit there is complete without stopping in Malaprops, my favorite of the SEVEN bookstores this amazing city. I visited this bookstore with a dog! Yes, my friend was able to take her dog with us to Malaprops because they are dog friendly. This was a first for me – selecting books with a dog.
Over spring break, I visited Portland, Oregon for the first time and was able to go to Powell's City of Books with my sister. The store was everything I had hoped for and more: a whole city block and the world's largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. I was in book heaven wandering around to my heart's content. While there, I picked up The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, a book I enjoyed very much just recently.
During our Easter visit to New Orleans, we stayed within walking distance of my favorite spots in the Crescent City, Octavia Books. I bought a neat book of maps of New Orleans, called Unfathomable City: A New OrleansAtlas. This wonderfully illustrated book sits in a place of honor on my coffee table, a reminder of the city I love.
This summer, I took my older daughter to my favorite Austin bookstore, BookPeople, after eating lunch at the Whole Foods flagship store on N. Lamar. We wandered and book looked for an hour, both purchasing books. I look forward to reading The All of It by Jeannette Haien with a forward by Ann Patchett. I'll admit, I was attracted to it because of Patchett's name on the cover (I've had a Patchett obsession this summer - see future blog post), but I can't wait to start it.
Last weekend, both of my daughters finally got to see my sister's home in Moscow, Idaho and enjoyed a visit to Bookpeople of Moscow, a gem of a bookstore in this small college town. This bookstore is one of the reasons my sister, a librarian at the University of Idaho, loves her new town so much.
Independent bookstores are alive and well. These little lighthouses shine for all and keep many book lovers nourished and fed in this fast-paced world. What wonderful bookstores have you visited recently?