If a bookstore offers recommendations throughout the store, I may skip talking to the clerk. While Iâ€™ll wander from one recommendation slip to another looking for something special, if something doesnâ€™t strike me, Iâ€™ll look to see if one of my all-time favorite books, Atonement by Ian McEwen, is recommended. If so, I find the clerkâ€™s name and then search out her other recommendations. Iâ€™ve also been known to do the opposite, look for a recent book that I felt was overrated, see if it was recommended and skip that personâ€™s suggestions throughout the store.
At Olssonâ€™s Books and Records in Washington, DC, my search plan helped locate the bowl is already broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff, a novel about the museum world. The recommendation card said that the museum in the book was based on the Freer Gallery of Art in DC and several of the scenes occur in the DC area. Iâ€™m saving the book to read the next time I fly to Washington DC.
Olssonâ€™s in Washington, DC devotes floor-to-ceiling shelves throughout the store to Staff Picks, plus staff reviews are spread among the remaining shelves. I particularly the entire bookcases dedicated to recommendations of a specific genre: one for memoirs, several for non-fiction of various types, and several for literature. I did ask the clerk what he had recently read that he liked, but he was a horror and graphic novel fan so I smiled and thanked him, then happily worked my way through the staff picks. There were so many recommendations that I lost interest in looking at anything that didnâ€™t have a personal description hanging from the shelf.
Olssonâ€™s Books and Records and Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe are close to each other at Dupont Circle so I easily saw both in one visit. Olssonâ€™s is a small chain in the DC area with five stores. The Dupont Circle feels stuffed with books; there are shelves lining all of the walls, shelves throughout the center of the store, books stacked on tables, and seemingly squeezed into every available space. It is a place to meander for as long as you can, picking up books and curling up on a step or in a corner to read. Olssonâ€™s website lists the many events at the various locations along with 5 blogs, one of which is dedicated to poems and another to classical music (which Iâ€™ll be looking at on a regular basis). There is relatively small but well stocked children’s section.
UPDATE:Â Sadly, Olsson’s is closed.