Sunday, July 21, 2024

Northtown Books - Arcata, CA

Northtown Books, Arcata, CA

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Other independent bookstores would do well to take note of Northtown Books in Arcata, CA.  Any indie that has been in business since 1965 deserves to be acknowledged for its longevity and success and should garner more national recognition.  Even through the pandemic, owner Dante D. said it was one of their most successful years ever.  This was partly because they already had an online sales presence in place (you can order online now as well) and enjoyed a dedicated base of local customers who are avid readers.  Another factor for Northtown is they have an excellent downtown location and thanks to a former owner who owns the building, a reasonable lease (many indies would love a set-up like this).

Northtown offers all new books in a neatly organized one-level space.  I thought the store’s inventory compared very favorably with some of the bookstores I’ve visited in San Francisco.  Additionally, the store offers a wide variety of magazines that I would guess is one of the best in the area with an unequaled assortment that caters to many interests.  Sidelines include greeting cards, stickers, journals, calendars, and a variety of magic-themed items, among others.  In addition to the local regulars the store also sees tourist traffic, especially in the summers, and occasional customers from the local college, Cal Poly Humboldt.  A huge part of their business are their institutional sales.  So many bookstores would love to have those partnerships with their local schools.  Way to go Humboldt County.

As I was talking to Dante who was behind the counter, my eyes drifted down to my favorite part of the visit.  Tovi is the shop dog and I learned the same thing here that I’ve learned in EVERY indie I’ve visited that has a shop dog.  The shop dog is like a magnet for customers.  Some just come in to see Tovi which is a common theme in stores with a dog.  Whatever it takes to bring people into the store, do it!  Seems like this would be a good mascot to have on every staff!

As noted, this is a long-running independent bookstore with many successful years.  Yet, this year has not been as good as previous years.  Ok, Humboldt County readers, you know what to do.  Find your way to this impressive bookstore and enjoy meeting a knowledgeable owner and terrific shop dog.  Remember, you can’t pet a dog on the internet.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir. 

JUST FINISHED:  The Saboteur, Paul Nix.  The incredible true story of Robert de La Rouchefoucauld, born into a privileged French family with generations of prominence.  When Germany occupies France in WWII, Robert, in his late teens, is determined to make a difference in the war and his adventurous character eventually leads him to Britain and his work in the Resistance and undercover subterfuge.  He miraculously escaped with his life many times.  Meticulously researched.  A real-life spy thriller and narrative non-fiction at its finest.  Highly recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Nada, Jean-Patrick Manchette. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Nada, Jean-Patrick Manchette.  


Just a part of the front window display space. 

This takes the "Finding Waldo" promo to a new level. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Assortment of journals just inside the front entrance. 

Table display of staff picks.  You'll get a discount for one of these. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance and you can check out some of the greeting cards available.

I thought the store offered an excellent and wide variety of magazines.  These are just a few. 

Head over to the left side of the store and start your browsing along this wall. 

This section is labeled Gift Books.  I like it.

Display of Indie Bestsellers with a nice discount. 

If you're trying to read your book in the dark, get one of these at the checkout counter. 

Assortment of magic items that are a hit with some customers. 


If you're on a budget, head to this area of the store and score a sale book. 

Attractive display near the children's area. 
Just a few of the books of local and regional interest. 

View looking across the back wall of the store. 


The store has lots of items that will interest kids. 

A great area in the children's section to look through a book. 

View looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance. 

Here you go!  Grab a book and take it for a spin. 


Stop in and say hello to Tovi, a very nice bookshop dog.  He's pictured in his office behind the checkout counter.  He was under the weather the day of my visit and was taking a sick day but I'm sure glad I got to meet him.  Come for the books, stay for Tovi.

I've only seen these Blackwing pencils at a few indies but booksellers tell me they are high quality and sell well. 

Various sidelines located behind the checkout counter. 

Relevant advice at any bookstore. 

This is a red hat I can get behind. 

These book totes are conveniently located near the checkout since you'll be buying an armful.

If you like to collect bookmarks, there are many different varieties of Northtown Books bookmarks. 


With Dante on the left, the fine owner at Northtown Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Curious Squirrel Bookshop - Zionsville, IN

Curious Squirrel Bookshop, Zionsville, IN

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I’ve learned that bookstore owners have busy lives and many irons in the fire.  But I must say owner Aubrey A. at the Curious Squirrel Bookshop deserves a medal for successfully navigating her demanding schedule.  She’s a devoted one-person staff at this bookstore since opening over a year ago.  Before this she persevered through a busy stretch of law school.  And now, in addition to the bookstore she has a packed family schedule as a mother to five children (and all of these are only the things I know about.  I’m sure there’s even more.).  But as owner of Curious Squirrel, she’s dedicated herself to provide a safe space, a third place, where under represented people can visit, gather, and know that they can find their voices in the books offered in this store.  Most bookstores do this but Aubrey wears this mission on her sleeve.  For these people, Aubrey is that person; advocating for all and providing a place where they know they can belong.  You see, in addition to everything else I’ve mentioned, in Zionsville IN she’s a hero to minorities who are always in need of a voice.  Way to go, Aubrey.  

Curious Squirrel carries all new books with a strong representation for ALL minorities.  The sidelines also reflect this idea with their stickers, buttons, and unique greeting cards to name a few.  Their occasional story times promote these values for example, by hosting a Juneteenth story time this year.  Their location is Main St. Zionsville, a quaint, bricked street with many shopping opportunities and is excellent for foot traffic.  They are also right across the street from Black Dog Books, another terrific indie that I’ve visited previously.  The store’s location is very close to the weekly farmer’s markets which brings in throngs of people from many surrounding communities.  Thanks to visitors from these other areas, the Curious Squirrel is slowly raising its visibility to more and more under represented people.  

You really need to visit this indie, check out their inventory of subjects and genres, and meet Aubrey.  Bring in a skeptical relative or friend, after all, everyone is welcome here.  And as Aubrey said, “we don’t know what we don’t know.”  At this indie, you’ll find out.  This bookstore and its owner have big things ahead and you need to visit and see for yourself.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  Everything Is An Emergency, Jason Adam Katzenstein.  The author is a cartoonist and he brings that talent to this book to tell the story of his struggles and challenges coping with OCD.  Compulsions that deal with hand-washing and other rituals which interfere with childhood, dating, finding a job, and all other life challenges.  I love the graphic novel form for this.  Recommended. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Saboteur, Paul Kix. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon. 


Sidewalk chalk-board signs outside of many bookstores can teach us many things.  It never dawned on me until now that bookstores are excellent natural sunblock! 


Beautiful storefront in the heart of downtown Zionsville. 

One of the large display windows. 

View looking directly into the store from the front entrance. 

View looking to the left from the front entrance. 

Of course they have banned books.  Find out what "they" don't want you to read. 

Book display of Palestinian voices. 

Attractive display just inside the front door. 

Tote bags for social advocacy. 

View along the left side of the store. 

The best place to get comfy and try out a book. 

Stickers are huge everywhere I go and these are just a few of the ones available here. 

Another angle of this comfy area, right in the center of the store. 

A few of the non-fiction books offered. 


It's not too late to get involved with the store book club.  Give it a try. 

A few of the greeting cards available, many with snarky content. 

Did I mention they have stickers?

Below these stickers you can find a variety of puzzles. 

A portion of the children's area.

Overview of the inviting children's area. 

Bring your child here.  Sit with them.  Read to them. 

WOW!  The children's area has a kitchen service!

Many kids will find this to be the perfect hiding place. 

Looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance. 

This is a wonderful promotion and a great tool to learn about authors of all stripes.  Impressive. 


With Aubrey, the fine owner at Curious Squirrel Bookshop.  Thanks for a great visit.