It may seem odd that we have days on the calendar dedicated to shopping. No, I'm not talking about days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Prime Day (I don't even know how that one got started.). Instead I'm referring to days like Record Store Day, Free Comic Book Day, and the most recent addition to small business patronage, Independent Bookstore Day.
Sure. A cynic would say it's all consumerism gone mad. But in the age of the mega-conglomerate, I believe recognizing the contribution of the small businesses that offer our communities a healthy dose of human connection with our shopping experience is like the elusive "gift with purchase." No one needs to buy music records, comic books or even beautiful tomes of fiction and nonfiction, but they do improve our quality of life. And what better way is there to make that experience even more engaging than to purchase those items from small businesses where we can see the human side of our transaction and watch them breathe life into our neighborhoods and cities?
I'm not knocking the online buying experience, mind you. As someone who doesn't care for crowds or spending 15 minutes searching for a place to park, I can appreciate the no-hassle practice of shopping from the comfort of my easy chair and laptop. But at the same time, if the customer service is great and the trek is less than cumbersome, the book buying experience in an independent bookstore is joyous beyond measure. And sometimes, if the trek is a bit more cumbersome than I'd like, it's still joyous. ;-)
Independent bookstores may or may not be making a comeback. Who's to say? But I know you and I can make a difference in their survival -- not purely out of principle, but out of joy for the experience. Besides, the purpose of these calendar days isn't to get you to visit the merchants on that specific day only. The purpose is to remind you that they're there all year-round, ready to serve you whenever you feel the urge. So yes, remember them at Hanukkah and Christmas. Remember them on a loved one's birthday. Remember them any day of the year.
I should confess that my defense of this day dedicated to consumerism is a bit biased. I've worked in an independent bookstore that is no longer with us. (A Portrait of a Bookstore shuttered its doors in the San Fernando Valley after 26 years back in 2012.) And someday, I hope to work in one again. And maybe, if I get all my ducks in a row, I'll even own my own bookstore too. But until then, I'll be happy to support the local -- and faraway -- institutions that make the book buying experience one of the richer endeavors in life.
With that in mind, allow me to share my secret shame. Like a lot of people with long To Be Read lists, I admit I haven't read everything I've purchased from independent bookstores. Sometimes, life has other plans, and your desire to sit down with that new or used bounded wonder doesn't always come to fruition as soon as you hoped. So in an effort to light a fire under myself and remind me that I have plenty on my bookshelf to keep me busy, here are some of gems from the indie librairies that I totally plan to get to ... some day soon.
Let me know if you've read any of the 8 books below:
"Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell. Purchased at the Abbey Bookshop in Paris, France.
"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. Purchased at Powell's Books in Portland, OR, USA.
"While Canada Slept" by Andrew Cohen. Purchased at Circus Books and Music in Toronto, ON, Canada.
"The Magic Orange Tree" by Diane Wolkstein. Purchased at Libreri Mapou Creole & French Bookstore in Little Haiti, Miami, FL, USA.
"Dick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business" by Dick Van Dyke. Purchased at Indy Reads Books in Indianapolis, IN, USA.
"White Light" by Vanessa Garcia. Purchased at La Casa Azul in East Harlem, New York, NY, USA. (Now closed)
"Life In Motion" by Misty Copeland. Purchased at Strand Bookstore in New York, NY, USA.
"My Bookstore" compilation by Ronald Rice. Purchased at The Book Loft of German Village in Columbus, OH, USA.