“Books are the building blocks that we are talking about. They hold the ideas of our
culture. People are figuring out how their worlds work while reading percolates inside their brains. As a bookseller all these many years, I just know that books change lives…. I tell our new employees, ‘You can buy books anywhere. But you can’t buy the experience of Changing Hands anywhere but here.’ For me, that makes all the difference.”
Gayle, Shanks, co-owner, Changing Hands, Tempe, Arizona
How true this is! Just recently, I stepped through the door of Montclair’s beloved local indie, Watchung Booksellers, and instantly saw a book that spoke to me: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Since the heroine of my children’s historical fantasy is a kind of medieval “Tree Whisperer,” the idea of sprinkling a little magic into my story about the marvelous, mysterious ways in which trees communicate almost made me dance and sing. My new book is sitting here beside me and just looking at the three quiet little trees on its cover makes me smile.
And my last post, “The Magic,” featured pithy, pungent quotes from Raymond Chandler, all of which came from a book called The World of Raymond Chandler, which Alex discovered in a Vermont indie. While driving home, we chatted about the fact that only in a bookstore where selections are lovingly handpicked would you find a book just made for you that you didn’t even know existed until you saw it beckoning from a table or shelf.
And in the bookstores-change-lives department, there is the fabled emporium in Paris, Shakespeare and Company ( Shakespeare and Company). Founded in 1951, it’s still going strong and just celebrated the launch of a new imprint with the publication of its legendary story: Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart (a line by W.B. Yeats). Over the years, this legendary literary lair has not only soothed the souls, but housed the bodies of more than 30,000 “Tumbleleweeds” — down-and-out authors who needed a place to stay — a tradition that continues.
In a world of digital books and computers, I love the idea that, even now on a street in Paris, writers are dreaming away in beds nestled between stacks of books. Perhaps the shades of Proust and Hemingway, Melville and Mallarme, are whispering words of solace and encouragement to these wayfaring scribes.
Bookstores change lives, books change lives — so let’s all write on!