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I’ve worked in four independent bookstores over the years, two children’s and two general. It’s been a while since I worked a register but I still find myself absentmindedly nudging stacks of books back into line or opening my mouth to answer a customer looking for a recommendation. Indie bookstores have a unique place in the world, shaped by their staff and customers and communities. There’s a snobbery there, too, though. For years, if I went to a chain store I felt like I was slumming.

Really, though, I’m a bookstore omnivore. While I spend most of my book browsing hours in the library these days, any good bookstore will draw me in, and that includes chains. I love books and bookstores; they all feel like home to me in one way or another. About 20 minutes away is a large chain store with a two-story mezzanine layout. It’s bright and open and smells of paper and ink and coffee. When I visit I go to the second floor and stand at the railing, listening to the low buzz of customers and watching staff weave in and out of the stacks. It’s like a hive for books. I’m always happy there, both peaceful and energized at the same time. 

I wonder if I’ll ever work in a bookstore again? It wouldn’t surprise me. 

Here’s what I picked up recently:

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If you haven’t read any books in Louise Penny‘s Inspector Gamache series, do so. Gamache is marvelous: intuitive and compassionate and relentless. He believes in goodness but peels away at the layers of a place until he finds evil. Penny’s books weave plots and subplots and off-the-beaten-path settings together in a way that makes environment a character in itself. Her books are worth a read just for a glimpse of the village of Three Pines. I’m also partial to Penny’s foul-mouthed and irascible poet Ruth Zardo. 

The other title hiding in the back there is the 2013 Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Market. The library wants their copy back.