“The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays” Review

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Author: Ann Patchett

Publisher: California Bookstore Day Publishing

Type: Essay, Non-Fiction

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

This past Saturday, April 30, 2016 was one of my favorite days of the year, Independent Bookstore Day. For those who don’t know, Independent Bookstore Day is a day where those who love books and bookstores, are able to show their love and appreciation by celebrating and supporting their local Independent Bookstore, and in turn supporting their community by shopping local. This year marked the second year of what will undoubtedly become a yearly event, and dare I say it, a holiday within the book community. As with last years event, a variety of limited edition items were available on this day as long as supplies lasted. Among these items were literary tea towels, posters and even books, including the one I am showcasing in this post.

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays by Ann Patchett was a cute little autographed book that was available for $6. I went into this day knowing that aside from the Neil Gaiman Coloring Book, that I wanted this book despite not knowing what it was about. Why did I want this little $6 book of essays when I knew nothing of its contents? One simple reason, the dachshund on the front. It had to be a must read for any dachshund lover and dachshund Mom such as myself.

After a successful shopping trip at my favorite Denver independent bookstore, The Tattered Cover, I returned home and proceeded to home with my haul. Curling up on the couch with my dog, Ripley, I set aside my other book so as to delve into this little read and find out why there was a dachshund on the cover of a book about independent bookstores. What I found within the pages was a rather interesting and engrossing story of how author Ann Patchett found herself co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, and the bits of information she has picked up along the way since becoming and independent bookstore owner.

In the first essay, The Bookstore Strikes Back, which first appeared in The Atlantic, tells of how after the last remaining bookstores in Nashville closed in 2010 and 2011, the city found itself without a local bookstore in the town. Although community forums were held to discuss what could be done to fill this void, none of the suggestions caught on with the community and this led to Ann Patchett considering opening a bookstore of her own. It was with an introduction to Karen Hayes, Ann Patchett’s future co-owner and business partner, that the ball began rolling. Despite constant feedback from the media that bookstores were dying and in another decade would cease to exist all together, Patchett and Hayes persevered and before they knew it, Parnassus Books had opened and was a success, Nashville once again had a bookstore in its town.

The second essay, Things No One Told Me About Owning a Bookstore, is where I finally received the answer to my question in regards to the dachshund on the cover. In this essay, Patchett discusses the little intricacies she had never thought of when it came to actually owning a bookstore: such as the group of employees who would come to be like a family that celebrated one another’s highs, lows, successes and set-backs; the customers who shop at and support the bookstore and become such regulars that the staff is comes to know their reading preferences and are better able to make recommendations; the fellow authors and friends of Patchett who visit her store while either on book tours or in town visiting; and the dogs which have come to be a staple and mascots of the bookstore, including a dachshund named Mary Todd Lincoln who even has her own Instagram account. It was this second essay which solidified in my mind that my next trip to Nashville needs to include a visit to Parnassus Books in order to meet the dogs, specifically the dachshund Mary Todd Lincoln.

The final essay, Booksellers Love to Recommend Books (It’s Who We Are), is nothing more than a list of Ann Patchett’s 52 favorite books from the year she turned 52. Of these 52 books, I myself have read only 4; I did however find an additional 9 books on the list that have peaked my interest and I now plan on reading at some point in time.

All three essays combined, made the perfect little read to cap off the success of my shopping trip on Independent Bookstore Day. It is my hope that future Independent Bookstore Days will feature more little books of essays and musings from authors who are involved in the support of the Indie Bookstore.



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