Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Independent bookstores: A glimpse into the soul of a city

Contributing to the cultural fabric / Powell's City of Books, Portland, Ore.

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that a bookstore is "one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."

Thank goodness for bookstores. Thank goodness we are still thinking, too.

Visiting independent bookstores are always a treat because they offer something unique. Whenever I travel, I try to seek them out. They offer a glimpse into the soul of a city and a sense of a pretty cool place to buy a book.

Despite the shuddering of nationwide chain Borders a few years ago and the bland sameness of Barnes & Noble stores throughout the U.S, we can be grateful for the colorfulness of independent bookstores across the country. In cities such as Portland, Ore., independent bookstores like Powell's City of Books – which covers an entire city block and offers maps for its customers – not only are thriving, they contribute to a city's cultural fabric.

READ / Window display outside of
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle.
A neon READ sign in a window display greets customers as they walk by Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. It's a sign I never tire of photographing each time I visit the bookstore – and I've been coming to Seattle for more than 20 years. With over 120,000 titles to browse, and a spacious interior that includes original fir floors, a beamed ceiling with skylights, and an in-store cafĂ©, Elliott Bay Book Company is always on our list of places to see – and to buy a book – when we visit our longtime Seattle friends.

Last Saturday, Independent Bookstore Day was celebrated across the United States. It brought to mind the many wonderful and unique independent bookstores I've visited over the years and willingly patronized. A few of them come to mind:

Book Passage in San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Building; Mrs. Dalloway's Literary and Garden Arts in Berkeley; Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore.; Books & Books  in Coral Gables, Fla.; Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Miss.; Faulkner House Books on Pirate's Alley in New Orleans; Common Good Books in Saint Paul, Minn.; and my favorite, Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.

Bought a good book lately? Remember: Support your local independent bookstore. READ!

Original fir floors, beamed ceilings, plenty of
 books inside Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle.

Tomes Not Drones / Timeless commentary
at Common Good Books, Saint Paul. 

Eat Sleep Read Dig / Window mantra
at Mrs. Dalloway's Literary & Garden Arts,
Berkeley, Calif.

We Recommend ... / Good books,
great atmosphere at Book Passage,
inside the Ferry Plaza Building,
along San Francisco's Embarcadero.

All photos: © Michael Dickens, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

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