Jerry Seinfeld said “A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”
I love bookstores. As much as I love my ereader—and I confess I very seldom read traditional books these days— I’d be devastated if traditional books died out, and took along with them the bookstore.
I don’t know whether it’s irony or just a sign of the times that the huge bookstore chains—you know who I’m talking about—are blamed for the demise of small, independently owned bookstores, and now those same huge chains have met their demise or find their existence in jeopardy because of the ereader.
I don’t want to lose these bookstores, large or small, because, as Mr. Seinfeld said, they do show us that people still think. They still broaden their horizons, explore other cultures, escape their own life—and they do it through a good book and not the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen.
On a weekend back in late June, while my parents were visiting from Texas, we drove two hours each way to northeast Iowa to have lunch with my Dad’s cousins and some extended family we seldom see.
My writing time was scarce while my family was visiting, so I took advantage of the long car ride by bringing a long a small notebook and working on my book in longhand.
We had lunch in McGregor, Iowa, a charming, picturesque town along the Mississippi River, directly across from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. It’s a touristy town, full of antique and other gift shops, and regular enactments of the Hole in the Wall Gang shootouts in the town square.
It’s also the home of one the most charming bookstores I’ve ever seen, the Paper Moon.
My mother, being my mother, did her best to embarrass me over lunch by announcing to this group of distant relatives whom I haven’t seen in years that I’m a writer. In this case I’m glad she did, though, because someone mentioned that I’d probably love this bookstore and should go there after lunch.
The Paper Moon is set in an old, three story built in 1860 and is a book lover’s dream. The first floor is a gift shop with all sorts of unique crafts, trinkets, stationery, etc. The second floor houses children’s books and toys, and I found some nice things for my nephews there. The third floor is the general bookstore, with the latest fiction bestsellers along with nonfiction and local interest books and a cute little kitchen stocked with cookbooks.
In addition to the gifts for my nephews, I bought a few very helpful resource books on writing and a book on Amish culture, which has long been a fascination of mine.
The writing books I figured would be an asset to me—and they have—but more than anything, the purchases I made were to support this absolutely charming, locally-owned store. Simply strolling through it and seeing all of the great merchandise reminded me of how much I love books and bookstores and would hate to see them fade away.
The next time you happen across a small, independently owned bookstore—they’re hard to find these days—stop in and browse and feel the joy of real books. And hopefully purchase one or two, as well, to try to keep the store alive.