Monday, January 25, 2016

Malvern Books - Austin, TX

Malvern Books - Austin, TX
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Readers, I'm afraid some of you will be disappointed with this indie but let me reassure you that there is no reason to feel this way.  As many booksellers encourage their customers to broaden their interests, that would be my advice to you about Malvern Books.  This store has a very specific niche and specific offerings.  You won't find Stephen King or Danielle Steele here, there are other indies for that.  Austin is a very literary community, home of the University of Texas which offers 2 MFA programs in writing.  Malvern Books wouldn't work just anywhere but it is a perfect fit in this community.

So what will you find at Malvern Books?  You will find new books of fiction and poetry only, published by independent presses.  They are bringing to you those great books waiting to be discovered that the masses have yet to grasp.  This is exactly what I like about this indie.  The majority of the books here you won't be able to find at large chains or elsewhere.  You'll also find a good selection of translations; those fiction and poetry works by foreign authors and translated into English.  In terms of book inventory, I would compare the emphasis here to that of City Lights in San Francisco, literary fiction and poetry.  Although, there is a big difference in the size of the two stores and depth of inventory.

Other than this specificity of genres offered, this indie shares many characteristics with all the other successful ones.  The store interior is quite beautiful and very neatly arranged.  They have a nice open space for events, readings, and book clubs.  They also carry a few sidelines that many others have including greeting cards, journals, and calendars.  You won't feel the least bit crowded when browsing and there are several places to sit and take your time.  There is plenty of free parking too, in a small lot right outside the store.

I didn't meet Dr. Joe, the owner, during my visit but had a great time talking to Fernando and Schandra.  I was surprised when Fernando told me the customer base is quite diverse in many ways and not dominated by the university community.  This should be a great sign for continued success.

Readers, when you visit here don't embarrass me by asking for Robin Cook, President Lincoln history, or the children's section.  None of that is here.  Instead, impress your friends by picking out a book they've never heard of and recommending they do the same.  Open your mind to some of the best authors and poets you've never heard of and enjoy a visit to this terrific bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Didn't.  Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.  Historical fiction.  I had high hopes but it didn't grab me.  It became a slog so I bailed out.  BUT, there are MANY readers who thoroughly enjoy this one.  I'm just not one of them.

CURRENTLY READING:  In Wilderness, Diane Thomas.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Old Devils, Kingsley Amis.

View looking straight through the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the right of the store from the front entrance.  Head this way for poetry.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  These are some of the greeting cards available.  They also have t-shirts.  

Another view of the poetry section on the right side of the store.  

There are several great places to sit in the store and try out a book, this is one of them.  

A nice display of local interests and authors.  

Need a bargain?  Find this book cart!

There are a variety of journals and planners.  

Look for fiction in this area on the left wall of the store or have a seat at this table with your book club.  

Another view of the fiction section.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front entrance.  Apologies for the lighting.  

Where else could you pick up a copy of The Progressive Populist?!

Attractive book display in the center of the store.  

With Fernando on the left.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Dock Bookshop - Ft. Worth, TX

The Dock Bookshop - Ft. Worth, TX
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I've always said that independent bookstores come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  The Dock Bookshop lives up to the unique spirit of indies as a family-owned, African-American owned independent bookstore.  Their strength here is with historical and cultural works by African-American authors.  And my experience here was the same as most other indies I visit.  A great bookstore visit and a wonderful time with the people I met there.

One of the first things I noticed when entering was how great this place smelled.  In addition to books, The Dock offers many sideline items including incense, oils, and soaps to name just a few and this really gives the store a great scent.  Additional sidelines include vinyl, CDs and DVDs, jewelry, greeting cards, clothing, and t-shirts, all aimed at a strong local customer base and the African-Amercan community.

I really enjoy seeing the variety of books in the indies I visit, books that are unique to the stores that carry them.  I see different books in different stores and that was true at The Dock.  No, you won't find James Patterson or John Grisham here but you will find some terrific African-American authors like Omar Tyree, Carter Godwin Woodson, and Dr. Frances Cress Welsing.  If you're not familiar with any of these authors I strongly encourage you to check them out.  And if you really want that John Grisham book, they'll be able to order it for you.  In addition to the new books, The Dock also offers used books.  These books are all donated, a great thing for indies who can acquire their used books in this manner.

The store is located in a plaza area long with a few other businesses.  These is plenty of parking available, all free.  There is a great events space in the back of the store which allows them to maintain an active schedule of events.

But the best part of all was meeting Donna C., who owns the store along with her sister Donya and their mother.  She was terrific to talk to and tell me so much about the store.  They've been here for 7 years which is a great sign of success for any indie.  The challenges are similar to all independent bookstores but Donna is optimistic about the future and after meeting her I agree.

I know many of you enjoy visiting Texas and now I've given you a destination.  Check out The Dock Bookshop in Ft. Worth and enjoy the fine people you will meet there and the books they offer that will be hard to find anywhere else.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver.  A collection of short stories by an award-winning author.  They were good, but too short!

CURRENTLY READING:  Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.  Not sure I'm going to make it.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Not purchased but gifted, The Mis-Education Of The Negro, Carter Godwin Woodson.  Thanks Donna!

View looking straight into the store from the front entrance.  Alert readers might recognize the elusive celebrity in the right foreground.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the right of the store from the front entrance.  

Some of the unique sidelines available near the front entrance.  

More sidelines including jewelry.  To the left of this display is where you'll find an assortment of used books.  

One of the book displays in the store.  

If you want something other than a t-shirt, you can find it here.  

More options besides t-shrits.  

An assortment of children's books.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

You can find t-shirts on both sides of the store.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front entrance.  This area in the foreground is the events space.  

Find your CDs and DVDs here.  

Music lovers are going to love the assortment of vinyl available here.  

This store smells great and this is why!

A nice display of Omar Tyree's latest.  

With Donna, one of the co-owners at The Dock.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Full Circle Bookstore - Oklahoma City, OK

Full Circle Bookstore - Oklahoma City, OK
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THIS is where you park, customers of Full Circle! 
I truly enjoy every independent bookstore I visit and the wonderful people I get to meet.  Every indie is great in its own way and they all have something different about them that makes them unique.  For example, how many indies offer reserved parking for their customers, designated by signs?  Or, how many indies have fully functioning and practical fireplaces (yes, there are 3 here and they throw out heat!)?  How about an outdoor patio/garden and a full-service cafe?  And instead of a bookstore cat there is a bookstore buffalo.  All of that is here at Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City.

When you visit bookstores, there is wow and then there is WOW!  This place is a no doubt about it WOW!  If this isn't the best, most complete, independent bookstore in Oklahoma, I'd be surprised.  Full Circle Books has been around for 30+ years under the ownership of James Tolbert.  He and his staff have done a remarkable job.  This store has everything that any thriving and successful bookstore has.  An active events schedule hosted right in the store.  Its own Full Circle Publishing enterprise.  A wonderful cafe where you can enjoy a morning coffee or a light lunch.  They also offer wine and beer which I think is great, especially when hosting events.  And even though there is a cafe, the store offers free coffee to bookstore browsers.  A very supportive local customer base as well as customers from out-of -town.  There are some sidelines here but the books are the thing.

Full Circle is a large, wandering one-level with multiple rooms.  Just when you think you've seen it all you'll discover more rooms and more books.  Many of the rooms have books shelved floor to ceiling, a great look.  They're also active with book clubs (there was one meeting on the morning of my visit), schools, and libraries.  If this store has a defiecincy I can't find it.

This is Pearl.  If you look closely, you can see the pearls.  
As you would expect, the quality of the physical store is matched equally by the quality of the people who work there.  If there are any clunkers on their staff, I didn't meet them!  I met Dana M., the store manager, Mary R., one of the booksellers, and Julia, the events coordinator.  These ladies were the absolute best and very generous with their time to talk to me about the store and the business.  It was encouraging to hear Dana tell me that she thinks the trend is swinging back in favor of the independent bookstores, an opinion shared by many others I visit.

Then there's Pearl the buffalo, one of the store mascots.  Pearl has a display of recommendations of local interest.  And she's made of pearls.  What other bookstore has this?!  This place is a keeper and for those of you who enjoy independent bookstores, it's a must see.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Breaking Creed, Alex Kava.  If you like thriller/mystery genres and haven't checked out this author yet, I would encourage you to do so.  I wasn't familiar with her and this book is a good one.  Creed is an Afghanistan vet who trains dogs for a variety of searches.  This book involves Creed and his dog Grace trying to nail a drug ring and child trafficking.

CURRENTLY READING:  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver.  Short stories.

Outside window display.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the left from the entrance and into the cafe.  

Theater seating!  Great seats for a 5-person book club!

One of the fireplaces in the store.  Originally, all three fireplaces were wood burning.  

A wall of bookshelves.  

Another fireplace and in this room you'll also find travel books.  

More theater seating in case you have a three-person book club.  

Another view of one of the beautiful rooms with a fireplace.  

The bookstore opens into a shopping mall area.  These are some of the displays.  

This is the best view I could get from the rear of the store looking toward the front.  Not a true picture of how big the store is.  

A display of award-winning books.  

Another great way to bring customers (and future customers!) into the store.  

One of the long book aisles.  

This is a view of the ceiling in the children's room which is a mirror.  Very cool.  

A partial view of the children's room.  

The garden/patio area is just outside the cafe.  

A few of the sidelines available.  

With Mary on the left and Dana on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.