Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Enchanted Books - Quincy, IL

Enchanted Books, Quincy, IL

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As a former educator, I sometimes was required to issue progress reports for students.  That life is behind me now but it is still in my teacher DNA to issue progress reports to my BOOKSTORE students.  My progress report for Enchanted Books is a glowing A+ with a few extra plusses!  A very attractive interior that is neat and tidy with a capital 'T'.  Best of all, Enchanted Books is off to a rousing start in less than a year of business.  Congrats to owner Jen T. and Quincy.

The attractiveness of this store begins before you even enter the store with the large mural painted on the lengthy display window along Maine Ave.  Very impressive.  The beautiful interior is home to new and used books that are very well organized and shelved, many of them together.  The genre signs make it very clear what section you may be browsing.  There are a variety of sidelines that offer some great gift ideas including greeting cards, cakesickles, made locally (they look addictive!), micro puzzles, earrings, and stickers to name just a few (the stickers are so hot everywhere I feel like I should start selling them out of my house).  This business is in its 3rd version as a bookstore and was most recently Codex Books.  Jen bought the business, renamed it, tweaked it with her own touch, and moved it much closer to the central business district and within a block of the main square, an ideal location.  Jen has done an especially good job of improving on and expanding the children's section.  

I didn't get to meet Jen on this visit but the store was in excellent hands with Suanne S. who was equally kind and knowledgeable about books and recommendations, the perfect make-up for a talented bookseller.

After visiting a wonderful bookstore like this I'm always baffled when I hear that many in the community don't even know of its existence.  How can that be?  When you drive by on the busy Maine Ave you can't help but see the large storefront with "books" spelled out on the top.  Time to wake-up Quincy and discover an oasis of enchantment right under your noses.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Lightning Down, Tom Clavin.  The true story of WWII pilot Joe Moser who flew many European combat missions until he was shot down and taken prisoner.  He and many other allied airmen however weren't taken to a POW camp but a concentration camp, a big difference.  They escaped death many times until they were finally helped by a most unlikely source.  If you like WWII history, this is a must read.  Recommended. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Testament of Caspar Schultz, Jack Higgins. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr.  

I love this building.  There's no mystery about what you'll find inside. 

The length of this display window made it the perfect canvas for this creative art work.  Impressive. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Directly to the right from the front entrance. 

Display table of beach reads, clearly indicated. 

A few of the greeting cards offered, just inside the front entrance. 

The perfect place to sit and sample a book. 

Always check out the banned book displays. 

Excellent advice. 

Sample a seat and a book near the front of the store. 

How many of these bestsellers have you read?  Full disclosure, I haven't read any of these yet. 

Very nice display of new arrivals.  So easy to browse here. 

While you're browsing, consider a beverage. 

View along the wall on the right side of the store.  Also, a perfect table for a game of chess. 

I can remember when I only saw the "blind date with a book" promotions in a few stores.  Now I see it almost everywhere. 

Display of various genres and sidelines. 

Here's the bargain rack.  Very affordable. 

Various sidelines attractively arranged. 

View looking along the back wall of the store toward the children's section in that far corner. 

Overview of the store looking from back to front.

Partial view of the children's area. 

Another view of the children's area. 

I think kids will love this space. 

Many bookstores have the "Blind Date With a Book" promotion for adults.  Here at Enchanted, they also have it for kids. 

A bargain. 

One more overview of the store. 

Pick one of these up at the checkout counter.  They're made locally and they sound great. 
With Suanne, one of the fine booksellers at Enchanted Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

City Books - Pittsburgh, PA

City Books, Pittsburgh, PA

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Readers, how often have I told you that the experience of visiting an independent bookstore is much more fulfilling than simply clicking "submit" and buying online?  Yes, I know I'm preaching to the choir but EVERY single bookstore is unique and special for me.  Such was the case, again, at City Books in Pittsburgh, located on the Northside in the Allegheny West neighborhood.  My visit began with a history lesson of the Allegheny area and its relationship to Pittsburgh (at one time, two different towns).  Also, the proliferation of authors that have lived in the vicinity of the bookstore including Willa Cather, Thomas Bell, Michael Chabon, Nellie Bly, David McCullough, to name a few and EASILY over 100 more (and they're all listed on Wikipedia).  Owner Arlan H. used to lead historical walking tours in Pittsburgh and taught college level literature and creative writing so to say she is knowledgeable is an understatement.  

And then she became a bookstore owner at the oldest bookstore in Pittsburgh, City Books, in 2015.  She is just the second owner of a business that began in 1984.  She no longer gives walking tours but is now the custodian of a space filled with used books and a few new ones by local authors.  They also carry some limited sidelines including candles, postcards, and store t-shirts.  Arlan and the store are stars on Tik-Tok and Instagram and approximately 40% of their sales are made through those sites and I would encourage you to follow the store on either of these.  You can also support the store online through bookshop.org, a site conceived during the pandemic to help indies.

City Books is smallish in size but is able to host occasional events off-site.  One of my favorite things here is what they host in the bookstore.  They support a writer-in-residence program and have a perfect area in the back of the store where they allow accepted applicants to "set-up shop."

I was reminded by Arlan what I have heard from MANY other bookstores that the pandemic was a time of excellent business.  In Arlan's words, customers were enthusiastically supporting the store.  But business has slowed here a bit.  Come on people!  I've given you some tools to work with here.  Buy online via several methods or better yet, pay them a visit.  Embrace this part of Pittsburgh history and propel them onward into a successful future.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Story of A Bad Boy, Thomas Bailey Aldrich.  Originally published as a book in 1870, this is a semi-autobiographical story of the author's childhood (pre-Civil War) growing up in New England.  Like kids of any era, he and his friends had numerous capers.  I loved this book because of what you learn about this time in history.  Considered part of a new genre at that time called, Bad Boy Genre, this author was a contemporary of Mark Twain.  Recommended. 

CURRENLY READING:  Lightning Down, Tom Clavin. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Postcard, Anne Berest.  City Books t-shirt.

Beautiful storefront with lots of window space for natural light. 

One of the large display windows. 

Pittsburgh was, and is, a hot bed of authors. 

Looking into the store from the front entrance. 

View looking to the right from the front entrance. 

This is a must-have for any longtime Pittsburgh baseball fans.  I think this would be a fascinating book. 

Just a few of the items of local interest. 

Browse this area near the front of the store, on the left side. 

Literary themed mini-candles. 

A fun and affordable promotion at many bookstores.  Take a chance!

The perfect place to sample a book. 

Oh for the good old days!

One of my favorite pictures over on the right side of the store.  Let the browsing begin!  

A few of the travel books offered. 

Area in the back of the store dedicated to a writer-in-residence program.  I think this is a fantastic idea. 

Another variety of candles including banned book candles.

With Arlan, the fine owner at City Books.  Thanks for a great visit.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Beyond Bedtime Books - Pittsburgh, PA

Beyond Bedtime Books, Pittsburgh, PA

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Every used book store I visit has its own unique way of keeping a book inventory.  Some use an inventory program and meticulously enter every book so they know exactly what they have.  At the other end of the spectrum are the used book stores that don't even try, simply because of their immense number of books.  Owner Jamie G. at Beyond Bedtime Books has her own method.  Jamie can confidently tell you whether a book is in her store or not.  She relies on her memorization of book covers to know her inventory.  Honestly, this is exactly the talent EVERY bookseller should possess.  It's even more impressive when you consider this store has approximately 75,000 books.  Well done Jamie.

Beyond Bedtime has been around for 13 years, all of them at this great corner location of the business district in the Dormont burrough.  The store is a smallish space packed to the gills with all used books.  Books of local and Pittsburgh interest are among the popular sellers.  There are some greeting cards offered but other than that its just the books (well, and the free Dum-Dum suckers for kids on their way to the children's area).  I was happy to hear that the store did more than merely survive the pandemic by offering free home and front door delivery.  That makes the store success all the more impressive since they don't offer online sales.  

Best of all, Jamie has created a true family bookstore with the assistance of her dad, Jim.  He even helped build some of the bookshelves and I'm POSITIVE his help extends way beyond that.

Readers, here's an additional tip for when you visit this store.  After you finish up at Beyond Bedtime (and buying A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Jamie's best recommendation), stroll down the street for a lunch at Dor-Stop Restaurant, featured on the TV show, "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives".   

If you ever find yourself on Potomoc Ave in Dormont, pay this terrific bookstore and its knowledgeable owner a visit in this vibrant area of Pittsburgh.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese.  A 16-year old boy was raised by an old man and now he goes in search of a father he has never known and wants to learn more.  Unfortunately, his father is dying and his son Franklin Starlight accompanies his alcoholic father on a journey to the end of his life.  I cannot recommend this author highly enough.  Highly recommended.  Also by this author, Indian Horse.  Outstanding. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Story of a Bad Boy, Thomas Bailey Aldrich. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Carnegie Maid, Marie Benedict.

Beautiful display window. 

The store has two large display windows with the entrance between the two. 

Independent bookstores have the most creative sidewalk signs. 

Looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance. 

View looking to the right from the front entrance. 

A Beyond Bedtime tradition, free Dum-Dums for the kids.  Way to go Jamie!

A few of the greeting cards available. 

Have a seat and take a book for a spin. 

One of the many book aisles. 

An overview at the back of the store. 

A long aisle of books awaits your browsing.  This is looking from the back toward the front.

An overview looking from the back toward the front entrance.  X-ray vision will enable you to see through the books and book shelves to the front door. 

Through this door to the children's area. 

Wasn't there a movie about flying sharks?  But I digress. 

Overview of a beautiful children's room. 

Another angle of the children's room. 

Pricing guide. 

Kids will love this place. 

Area at back of store. 

One of my favorite things here is the organization of books by author into these boxes.  These line the walls of the store. 

Just look for your favorite author's name on one of these boxes, very easy to find. 

Another view. 

I probably should've picked this one up!

This is practically a Stephen King mecca!

Very cool book art. 

I love this.  A local customer created this miniature version of Beyond Bedtime Books.  You need to see this in person to get a true perspective of this model.