Until I was seven, I lived in southern California. My parents loved living there–a day trip to Napa Valley was quite feasible (we are French, after all!), and the beach was quite close. But one of my parents’ favorite places was a place called Seaport Village. In Seaport Village, there’s an independent bookstore called Upstart Crow. When I was but a very wee lass, I apparently loved it. (I have to learn these things from a secondhand source, because my memory prior to fourteen is, at best, vague and disjointed. For this, like many things in my blame, I blame high school debate.)
Now, of course, I’m deeply regretting my hideously spotty memory because Upstart Crow sounds like a fabulous bookstore. It’s named after an insult hurled at Shakespeare by a bitter competitor who is largely forgotten by history, Robert Greene. Take that! I’m telling you about Upstart Crow because I think it firmly fixed in my mind of how a good bookstore should be–a broad but focused selection of books and encouragement to eat delicious muffins while reading.
That last is fairly optional, provided I have pastry options near the bookstore. (Decatur is thick with cupcakes, for some wonderfully ineffable reason.) A bookstore is about atmosphere, aided by its selection of books. I think this even goes for national bookstores, like Books-A-Million or Barnes & Noble. Their atmosphere is standardized across the nation, but it’s still there.
Books-A-Million feels, to me, a little younger than Barnes & Noble. For instance, I’ve watched, with interest, then horror, as the manga section of my local Books-A-Million swelled from perhaps two shelves to half the back of the store, pushing Western comics to the wall. While Barnes & Noble is certainly carrying more manga than it used to, it’s nowhere near the levels of Books-A-Million. Barnes & Noble feels a little classier, complete with brand-name coffee, plush armchairs, and the stately presentation of the magazines.
Lately, though, I’ve been utterly spoiled with the absolutely marvelous Little Shop of Stories, an independent children’s bookstore that brings Neil Gaiman to my campus and sells me speculative fiction. When I noticed my little cousin not exactly thrilled by touring my college campus last fall, I hustled him right down to Little Shop for story time, which perked him right up. Little Shop is bright and cheery, and even has a little chalkboard on the sidewalk for jokes, advertising events, or just commenting on the weather. It’s not just for kids–there’s a good selection of adult titles, and there’s plenty of young adult novels for the young at heart. Quite frankly, Little Shop is amazing.
In other news, I go back to school on Monday. I’ve really enjoyed my winter break, but I’m very ready to go back. I’m still working my way through The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World, which I hope to finish before I go back. I need to take my copies of Lord of the Rings with me, along with several other books, so I need to start packing my bags! I’ve really missed Atlanta, I have to be honest. I even have an audition lined up in February, which continues to astound me, although I have to improvise a proper headshot.
What are your favorite bookstores like?