I have a memory of standing on line outside of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona in 108 degree heat with my two children waiting to go inside and have their Grumpy Cat books signed by Grumpy Cat himself. Both the store and line were packed with people.
They were convinced they would die with anticipation as they counted down the days until their favorite bookstore would host the event. Changing Hands is the oldest independent bookstore in the Phoenix Valley and a staple in their childhoods.
April 28th is Independent Bookstore Day. As a self-identifying bibliophile I’ve always believed it’s a sign from the universe that my birthday would just happen to be at the same time. Over the years it has become tradition to go independent bookstore hopping to celebrate my birthday, and independent bookstores.
When our family moved to a small town in Iowa one of the first two things we set out to find were the independent bookstores. The second was the public library.
We live 30 miles west of Iowa City, the only City of Literature through UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in the United States. Iowa City is rich in literature, history, culture and the arts. It’s also home to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the most prominent writing program in the country.
Independent bookstores are about community, hosting events and supporting local artists by displaying their work on commissions. By supporting independent bookstores we’re supporting their efforts and we’re rewarded with books and sense of unity for the love of literature.
You can purchase a considerable amount of books for little money, build up your home library, promote reading within your community, your neighborhood, your home with your family.
Every independent bookstore I’ve ever been in shares the same feeling as its neighborhood. Their owners greet you by name because you’ve become a regular, coming in for a visit each time they update their Facebook page with new arrivals.
The local mom and pop shops are where the best books are bought and sold. Secondhand books make for valuable home libraries. You can stock your bookshelves with books not only loved by you but by others before you. The small nick in the front cover, the title faded from the binding and the coffee smudges inside the pages indicate the admiration from one owner to the next.
It had been a dream of mine to visit Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookstore located in Portland, Oregon and the day I finally made it there I fell in love. We spent a week in Oregon. We went hiking, laid on the beach, toured the wineries but nothing compared to the four hours spent in Powell’s. The books I purchased there still live in my home library almost a decade later.
In the town of Williamsburg where I live in Iowa, the week leading up to Independent bookstore day is similar to a rocket ship counting down before lift off.
This week I’ve attended the book fair to raise money at the local community hospital that provides healthcare to all the surrounding small farming towns and the book fair in the town square to raise money for local summer camps for elementary school age kids. I’ve already added eleven books to our home library.
Today is the at will donation book sale at the library to support their after school program and then independent bookstore day this weekend, It’s the time of year when the stacks of books in our home begin to tower and once the weekend passes their covers will be opened, their pages read and we’ll take off on adventures, learn new skills and feed our curiosities.
Our first stop on the Independent bookstore tour will be my favorite bookstore of all time, The Haunted Bookshop, Iowa City’s oldest secondhand bookstore.
With over 50,000 titles of the most unique collection I’ve ever seen and their unbelievably reasonable prices it will be impossible for me to leave without more books than I could possibly read, most of which I’ll comb over while sitting with one of their cats, either Logan or Nierme in a chair so comfortable I may never want to leave.
Each time I walk through their door I feel settled and at ease. Their book selection spans every topic and genre you could desire, dating back from the 1800’s to present day.
If you love books (like, who doesn’t?) be sure to mark your calendar because we, the readers keep literature and independent bookstores alive. If you’re unsure of where one is located in your community you can find it online with the Indie Bound Bookstore locator.
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©️ 2018, Erika Sauter. All Rights Reserved.