Every fan of independent bookstores talks about their importance in creating community. Sometimes it’s hard to know what that means. There is certainly interaction between the customers and the booksellers, and between readers and authors at events. Those are “wheels and spokes” models of interaction, all directed toward a center. How does an independent bookstore create an opportunity for the spokes to interact? Visit Vroman’s. It’s not unusual for me to chat up complete strangers looking at books in a bookstore. Just pick up The Elegance of the Hedgehog and get ready to hear my thoughts despite the fact you’ve never met me. At Vroman’s, customers were clustered in groups and talking all over the store. And not all of them knew each other, I know because I was eavesdropping. I wasn’t in the store for 10 minutes when a customer walked up to me, pointed at The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig and told me it was a beautifully written story. Wanting to exchange the favor in the D section of fiction, I recommended The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. We both walked away with a new book.
Just when I was going to ask a bookseller for a recommendation, I heard one of the employees recommend Louis de Bernieres for a “sophisticated, educated woman” who was in the hospital. Well, I’m not bedridden, but I flattered myself that the rest of the description may apply so I discretely followed along (stalked them). I didn’t connect de Bernieres with Corelli’s Mandolin, probably because I’ve only seen the movie, but the bookseller raved about it. I bought his A Partisan’s Daughter to give it a try.
What else did I find? Looking at the WALL of employee recommendations I found the “I’m going to die” book for an airplane flight later this month. Flying alone, without Keith to grab or Leslie to tell me what the plane is doing (they gave some lame excuse about jobs preventing them from joining me) I need a fun book for distraction. On the employee recommendation wall, I found The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. The shelf talker described it as Shakespeare meets The Da Vinci Code, perfect for restraining me from gripping the poor soul seated next to me. Wandering through the literature shelves, I became a fan of Sarah S, she loved The Elegance of a Hedgehog AND Atonement, we must have been best friends in another life. So, I followed her recommendations around the store, many I had already read and loved (she has excellent taste), but I’m not a big mystery reader. She raved about a mystery called Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. I never would have bought it, but odds are if she liked it, so will I. Maybe it will make the airplane pile. I’ve never read about a murder on a flight, always felt like would add fuel to the fire, but who knows? (Click here for other plane, train and automobile books.)
Keith joined me at Vroman’s and as we were driving to dinner he went on and on about all the neat sideline (non-book) stuff they have at the store. He wanted to buy boatloads of items. I never notice the sideline options, I’m too busy looking at books. If you’re interested in gifts for book lovers that aren’t books, according to Keith, this is the best store he’s ever been to (and I’ve dragged him to many bookstores).
Also, check out Vroman’s blog, I love it.
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101