I’ve been a big fan of Record Store Day, a yearly “holiday” celebrating independent record stores complete with special limited-edition releases. Book stores have seemed to follow suit with today’s national launch of independent bookstore day.
While the special releases are somewhat limited (signed prints by graphic novelist Chris Ware and Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey, a Roz Chast tote bag, a signed collection of essays by “Bad Feminist” Roxane Gay, and a set of tea towels with wry sayings by Lemony Snicket and Pat Conroy x), the idea of Independent Bookstore Day is a great way to create greater awareness of those that remain.
This year, there are about 400 stores from Maine to Alaska participating, many hosting readings, parties, or other events. I’ll be sure to visit my personal favorite here in NYC, The Strand.
The Strand is home to a professed 18 miles of books, and while I’ve only visited a handful of times, I’ve always come away with a small treasure trove at affordable prices. The selection includes a bit of of everything–graphic novels, comics, novels, photography books, and even a rare book room including first editions, rare books, and signed copies worth thousands of dollars. They’ve also recently introduced a vinyl collection. I’ve had a lot of fun just taking a walk around the room and seeing everything available.
Even more, I’ve spent an hour or two at a time just walking around the store, hoping to come across a moment of literary serendipity that leads me to a new favorite. I’ve certainly found some new favorites in books like Jason Lutes’ graphic novel Jar of Fools and international obscurities like Danilo Kiš’ The Attic.
Independent book stores provide an experience like no other, far from the capitalistic sterility of a Barnes and Noble or the anti-climactic “confirm order” of Amazon.com. Of course, I’ve found some great books through both of those retailers, but independent book stores provide a full-bodied experience that makes you excited to inhabit the space and contribute to their continued well-being.
Will you be visiting an independent book store today? Which local shop is your favorite?