Saturday was Independent Bookstore Day here in northern California, and since we were on an adventure in Point Reyes, Jill and I decided to head to Point Reyes Books, one of our favorite independent bookstores.
This bookstore, on the main street of a small town on the Pacific coast, alongside the Point Reyes National Seashore, attracts lots of tourists and locals to the area for great outdoor activities and spectacular seaside views. We’ve been going there for years.
Never heard of “Independent Bookstore Day?” It’s a local affair, but in the book-crazy San Francisco Bay area, it’s quite popular, with many stores up and down the coast participating.
“Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) is produced by the Northern California Independent Bookstore Association in partnership with the American Booksellers Association… ‘The entire purpose of Bookstore Day is to celebrate our collective success and thank our customers and the community of readers,” says writer and former bookseller Samantha Schoech. ‘For so long, the message about indie bookstores was all doom and gloom, but the truth is, there are more indie bookstores this year than last, and more last year than the year before that. Independent bookstores are actually opening around the country. We want people to know that.'”—Pt. Reyes Books Website
Since it was also the bookstore’s 14th anniversary, there was a lot to celebrate with live music, refreshments, and more. The bookstore has a presence far larger than its rather small, crowded, but cozy store. They run frequent events and have contributed over half a million dollars directly to local nonprofits over the years.
The Romance of the Independent Bookstore
I don’t know about you, but I learned to really love books in bookstores a lot like this one. These stores seem to share some of the same atmosphere, even the same kinds of wooden shelves and little idiosyncratic touches, of their brethren.
They always display personal tastes in the selection of their merchandise, rather than a “corporate” selection. You’ll find quirky authors, local writers, social justice, classic fiction, regional cook books and histories, all the stock in trade of a local bookstore.
And don’t forget the staff, who are generally super knowledgable about the book whose name you can’t quite remember, although you do recall what the cover looked like. They know their own stock, and most aren’t shy about giving you personal recommendations. I especially like the “Staff recommends” tags you’ll find on the shelves.
Of course, one of the reasons I enjoy bookstores is the opportunity to see all the print books at full size and in the “flesh.” Tables of books in similar genres soon expose the ones with the best covers, because that’s where you look first, most of the time.
The best cover I saw there was this one, whose economy and graphic impact were achieved with the barest of resources. And it’s no wonder:
“The gravity of the book is echoed by its impeccable, disquieting cover… The design is the brainchild of Keith Hayes, the hotshot book cover designer behind such marquee titles as The Goldfinch and The Art of Fielding.”—Mental_Floss
Also easy to spot was this great series of covers for Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple but profound series of Mindfulness Essentials, translating Buddhist teachings into practices anyone can do. Their style perfectly mirrors the approach of the books. And they were high up at eye level.
The Intimate Reading Experience
Probably what I remember best from visits to bookstores like this one over the years, most of them in the New York area, was the intimacy provided for people who just wanted to read.
There are always comfortable chairs, they are part of the ethic of the independent bookstore, and just like Jill diving into one of her new purchases, I recall many hours spent reading, researching, or just daydreaming between the high stacks of new and used books towering above.
I’m sure the whole atmosphere of these stores—with their reverence for learning, appreciation for the lessons of the past, functioning as small repositories of what’s best in each succeeding culture, selected by real people with real opinions and prejudices—had a big influence on how I ended up spending my life.
Enjoy your own local independent bookstore soon, and have fun.