This past weekend, I was in Delaware, where my family has been going in the summers for over ten years. Three years ago, we bought our own condo down there, so we now visit at least twice a year as opposed to once.
I consider that tiny beach town a second home. It holds a quieter pace of life, which I desperately needed this time around. I can easily walk from our house to the beach and have countless options if I want to get something to eat. You have to understand that my hometown is severely lacking in anything entertaining, so I crave accessibility to anything that is not McDonald’s. The people, whether they be Delaware natives or vacationers, are so friendly, which unnerves me as a jaded Long Islander, but college in upstate New York has shaped me into being a little chattier with strangers.
It used to have two bookshops – one a larger, independent one and the other a discount place. The discount place closed down a long time ago, but I can still look at my bookshelf and pick out the books I bought there as an eleven-year-old kid. The independent shop is alive and well, and I usually have to be dragged out of there when I go.
Yes, it’s just that good.
Visiting the shop at nighttime involves a huge crowd of families, old people, and those on their own. Every time I enter, I either end up having a conversation with another patron or the cashier about a certain book or overhear people discussing a book I read. This weekend I nearly jumped over a shelf to join two ladies talking about B.J. Novak’s book of short stories, which I loved. I also took much delight in a woman not having it when her husband pointed out Go Set a Watchman on the shelf.
“Look, Harper Lee. Didn’t you want to read that?”
The woman glanced at the book over her shoulder, but then continued guiding their child past it. “Yes, but I don’t want to anymore.”
The husband, clearly not up to date on his literary news, was puzzled. “Why not?”
The woman gave a dismissive laugh. “I decided I didn’t like it.”
This time more than ever, I noticed how the atmosphere in this shop just buzzes with readers’ enthusiasm. It is so different than my experiences in Barnes & Noble, when everyone is quiet and the customers in line almost seem like they don’t even want to buy the books in their hands. Again, maybe this is just unhappy Long Island for you, but my passion for books feels more alive in that Delaware shop than it does in any Barnes & Noble.
That’s why we need to support independent bookstores more often. People find other people who know about books there. I’m not calling out B & N employees or patrons, but people seem more keen on sharing recommendations and thoughts in a non-chain setting. Children in an independent bookshop make me even more excited, because that means they’ll grow up loving places that genuinely want to share books and not just make a profit.
I have no indie shops near me, which is so upsetting because I’d love to work as a bookseller in that kind of environment. I’m even aiming to have working at the Delaware shop as my backup plan for next summer. I’m totally going to be that aunt who gives you books every Christmas and birthday whether you like it or not.
What about you? Have you ever been to an indepedent bookshop?