As many of you know, I live in bookish Madison, Wisconsin. You really can’t go anywhere without tripping over books or running into authors, booksellers, reviewers, book sales, book talks, or libraries. And to add to this wonderfulness is the fact that Madison boasts some fantastic indie bookstores (see my Literary Tourism post).
There’s just one problem. Since I moved here nearly 11 years ago, at least two pretty great indie bookstores have closed. Those that are still going, though, boast a strong, diverse inventory and knowledgeable staff. They all offer drool-worthy first editions, leather-bound collections, and every genre and topic under the sun.
Nonetheless, if I had a bunch of dollars and could open my own bookstore, I’d do some things differently. But what has made me think about opening my own place, you might be asking. Oh, just this FREAKISHLY LARGE EMPTY PROPERTY near where I live that would be perfect for a bookstore. It’s in a strip-mall near a library and a hardware store. It used to be a grocery store, but for several years now this property has sat vacant and forlorn. I go by it nearly every day and yearn and long for that space so I can fill it up with books books books books and more booooooks.
Now, I have never owned or run any kind of store. I’ve (unfortunately) never worked in a bookstore, and I don’t have the least idea about how I would begin or any of the ins and outs of book-selling. My in-laws have some experience, though, so I could ask them. But in an ideal Rachel-world, where I could do anything I want and I have ALL the dollars, this is what my dream bookstore would look like:
- a special section for foreign-language and translated lit: unless I’m mistaken, no bookstore around here has a large, well-stocked foreign lit section. In my bookstore, I’d have a wall devoted to classic and contemporary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in translation and/or in their original languages. It would be very, very rad.
- a large SFF section: SFF is pretty well-represented here in Madison, but I’d give these books their own wall, as well. I’d offer ALL the Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, China Mieville, Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and many others. Because I hate when you go into a bookstore and they have one or two titles by an author and you want to see alllllll of their titles.
- ample shelves of children’s lit, biography, history, literary fiction, poetry, first-editions, audiobooks, and I suppose, some literary criticism. Maybe.
- a wall of everything Thomas Mann and Emile Zola ever wrote: [no explanation needed]
- a wall of Little House and Anne of Green Gables books. CLEARLY.
- a really bookish little coffee nook: each table would boast a painting of a different author, and all of the drinks would be named after books. All of the pastries would be chocolate or chocolate-filled, and the chairs would look like open books. Somehow. I welcome design suggestions.
- book talks: I’d pull my best puppy-dog look on any author I came across and get them to give a talk in my store.
- if it doesn’t have something to do with books, it’s not allowed in my store.
There you have it. A large, vacant property; many ideas; and the only things lacking are money and time. So unless someone out there has a money-and-time cannon and is willing to launch some of that my way, I’ll probably go on pining and longing and yearning [you are tearing up right now]. But maybe when I’m retired, this bookstore can happen. That would be awesome.
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