Tag Archives: bookstores

Browsing in a Bookstore — Yes! Really!

8 Sep

Is there anything more pleasurable than browsing in a bookstore? I have always loved the feeling of turning my head sideways to look at the books on the shelf in a bookstore or library. And how about this? Half an hour with the bookstore to yourself to browse to your heart’s content, after you put on your mask and gloves of course. 

My favorite used bookstore, Golden Fig Books in Durham, North Carolina is doing just that. You can sign up for a half an hour time slot online. Members of one household are then welcome to browse in the store for thirty minutes.

My husband and I arrived promptly at the beginning of our allotted time, and after sanitizing our hands and donning the gloves they provided, we headed into the book selection. I wandered from popular fiction to mysteries to historical fiction to memoir, before finally settling to make a choice. We both ended up purchasing used books, so we didn’t spend much. Golden Fig also has a good selection of new arrivals available if you can’t wait for the latest books to appear on the used shelves.

I chose The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, a novel about the young women employed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II at the pilot plutonium and uranium enrichment plant built as part of the Manhattan Project and the creation of the first atomic bombs.

The name of the store, Golden Fig, comes from the book The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. According to the store’s website, there is a point is the story “where the main character is comparing life to a fig tree. Every branch symbolizes a different path she can choose to take, and each fig represents a different career or destination.” I love the symbolism of the fig tree and the life choices it represents, and also the vast choices we face whenever we browse in a bookstore. I read The Bell Jar a few years ago when I realized that although I knew who Sylvia Plath was and had read a biography and some of her poetry, I had never read her most famous book. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. It is a sad semi-autobiographical story of a woman’s slide in mental illness, but riveting and thought-provoking.

We celebrated our outing and our purchases by stopping next door at Guglhupf Bakery from some sweet treats to take home. Food and books make for such a great pairing!

It’s amazing how special these little adventures are when we haven’t had the opportunity to go out much in the last few months. I am really pleased that places like Golden Fig are finding creative ways to open to customers.

Sirius Black thinks a book makes a great pillow.

A Bookstore a Month

10 Aug

 

I started out with a grand plan to visit a new bookstore or library each month of 2020. We all know how that worked out.

My bookstore for January was McIntyre’s in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a lovely independent bookstore with a huge mystery section. I was even able to participate in an author’s event and have some of my books for sale on the Sisters in Crime table. And I highly recommend the Belted Goat next door for a delightful, casual lunch, when we can go to restaurants again.

February was a bonus. I traveled to Los Angeles and stopped in at the public library in Hawthorne, California on a morning walk from my son and daughter-in-law’s house. Later our whole Los Angeles gang went to Skylight Books in the Los Feliz neighborhood. This relatively small store contains a wide selection of literary fiction, books on music, art, film and theatre. I loved browsing their shelves of Los Angeles regional culture and history.

We followed our visit to Skylight Books with a visit to Figaro Bistro down the street for afternoon pastries and ice cream.  And since we were on vacation, we meandered on down Vermont Avenue to the Yque Tshirt shop. Hey! That’s what you do on vacation!

Before returning home, we made a repeat visit to The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, one of my favorite bookstores. It is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. This amazing store has everything, including nooks and crannies and a rabbit warren floor plan that just makes you want to get lost, or maybe spend the night. This gigantic store contains 250,000 new and used books on two floors, and includes an Arts & Rare Book Annex, thousands of vinyl records as well as graphic novels.

So, what makes a good bookstore? I love surprises. It might be the architecture and design. I love being able to wander from room to room, making discoveries as I go. This is also true of City Lights in San Francisco, another favorite of mine. Organization is important, but not too much. I like the categories to be clearly labelled so if I want to browse mysteries or cookbooks or books translated from Spanish, I can find them. Friendly, helpful staff definitely make for a good bookstore. But not too friendly and helpful. I need to spend time alone among the books.

I am dreaming of the day I can continue my exploration of bookstores in person. Maybe next year I will aim for two per month.

I will end with a short list of a few of my other favorites, just in case you want to check them out, or at least look at their websites.

The Strand, New York City

Title Wave Books, Anchorage, Alaska

Tattered Cover, Denver, Colorado

Golden Fig, Durham, North Carolina

Malaprop’s, Asheville, North Carolina

Foyle’s, London, UK