I grew up in a bookshop. I mean that quite literally.
My parents separated when I was about 5 and my siblings and I went to live with my mother. Every Monday and Thursday (and “every-other weekend” a phrase well-know to children of divorce), my father would pick up my siblings and I and take us to (at the time) the only restaurant in my home town, a sports bar where we ate buffalo wings bi-weekly, that shared a shopping center with a Barnes and Noble (which was also the only place to get coffee in my town).
I bought my first chapter book at that Barnes and Noble. My father would let us all run wild we would spread ourselves across the shop with our novels (back when Barnes and Nobles still had cosy chairs and couches). We were allowed one book a week, two if we bought one of those B&N classics because they were cheaper (and why, to this day, I’ve read mostly classics).
I love bookshops. Even chains. I know it’s cheaper these days to buy online, but the bookshop was a founding principle of my literary career. I hold on to them with romanticized nostalgia that no longer belongs in the digital world.
When I moved to New Orleans, I discovered a couple of really cool bookshops that have really worn a hole in my heart, but by far my favorite is an eccentric little place, crammed full of books called Blue Cypress Books. This place has every great aspect of a bookstore other than a reading room… Plus it’s adorable. So I thought I would break down the Anatomy of an Awesome Bookshop for you guys:
1) A lot of books. This is important because… well, obvious reasons. I want to feel like, when I’m in a bookshop, I am drowning in books. If an earthquake suddenly happened, I would like to think I’d be buried alive in there. I want all genres. Blue Cypress has an entire extra room just crammed full of Fantasy and Sci Fi (with a little bit of travel and, oddly, memoir squeezed in), a whole nook of Children’s Lit, and even a case or two of collectibles.
2) A really awesome staff. The thing I love most about Blue Cypress is that, while it’s so small it’s mostly staffed by it’s owner, she knows a lot about books. An adorable blonde woman who has read every book I’ve ever come in asking for, she and I never run out of literary subjects to discuss. They also do this really helpful thing where the staff all labels their favorite books. Once you get to know their tastes, it’s like a huge flashing sign telling you what you’d like to read next.
3) Some sort of adorable animal. I used to take the children I babysat to Blue Cypress to help me regain my sanity momentarily. They have an adorable cat there that the tots would chase around to their hearts content while I actually got a moment to pick books. Aside, from the one time I had to peel the terrified cat off the littlest’s head, this was my favorite thing. Plus, there is nothing like a cat rubbing against your ankle while you peruse the poetry section.
4) Fair pricing. I switched to used books soon after becoming poor. Let’s be honest, books are insanely expensive. (Plus, I love a well-loved book!) Even still, some used bookshops charge almost-new prices. No thanks… I want to fill my life with books, not empty my bank account. Bonus points if they offer rewards programs for book addicts like me.
5) Ideally, a couch. I used to sneak into my college library to take naps because they had chairs more comfortable than my dorm bed. I’m not saying, if my bookshop had one, I’d be snoozing there or anything (possibly, though), but I’m the kind of person who always reads the first chapter before they buy. An awesome, little reading room would really seal the deal for me.
6) Coffee. I don’t know why, but coffee and bookshops are inextricably linked. They just seem like they belong together–or maybe that’s just coffee and everything (or, better yet, books and everything). Granted, this is a bit of stretch for small bookshops, but I think coffee would turn a bookshop into my heaven.
7) Secret rooms. Another awesome bookshop in New Orleans (which, sadly, recently downsized and lost this feature) was in a cute little house that twisted its way towards the back. This was great. Nothing like getting lost in a little shop and finding yourself in the parallel universe that is Avant Guard Architecture or whatever random special interest you happen upon. Plus, this is the best place to hide with your shameful reads.
Bookshops will always be akin to my home, but if I had a bookshop with all of these things… I think they’d have to drag me out of there every night.
What about you guys? Can I ask you just one question: Do you feel literary? Well, do you?