Today’s guest post is by Laura Nicole Diamond, author of Shelter Us.
It doesn’t take much to induce my family to hit the road in search of a temporary escape from reality. Some people travel to baseball stadiums, or beaches, or vineyards. For a book lover, there’s no better way to experience new towns than a bookstore tour. With my debut novel Shelter Us published in June, a book tour road trip made perfect sense. The goal: visit as many bookstores as possible.
I bring good news: The bookstores are thriving, people! From Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, I visited 23 bookstores in 21 days. Some were quiet when I visited, and others bustled with summer readers, but there was a consensus among the booksellers that an equilibrium had been reached, that the slaughter of the indies had ended.
The starting point for our literary odyssey was Bucks County, Pennsylvania, home of grandparents and two cuddly/naughty English Spring Spaniels. While our sons played with their dogs and grandparents (in that order), I visited nearby Newtown Books in Newtown, and Doylestown Bookshop in (you guessed it) Doylestown. (Authors take note: even though I did not have formal events scheduled, I called ahead and the owners welcomed me to sign copies of my book. Newtown Books’ owner Kathy read and selected Shelter Us as a staff pick!)
Venturing across the Delaware River to New Jersey, I participated in events at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, and Watchung Booksellers in Montclair. In New York City, I signed copies and met the exuberant booksellers at Book Culture on Columbus Ave. Continuing to New Canaan, Connecticut, I spent an unfairly gorgeous Saturday afternoon at a table at Elm Street Books, hawking my book. The good people of New Canaan stopped to talk, entrusted me with their stories of loss and discovery, and many took my book home with them. A woman walking two dogs called out as they pulled her past, “I read that book in a day-and-a-half! I loved it!” A man ambled past and muttered, “I only read non-fiction.” Bless them all.
We then headed for a three-night, parents-only escape to the Hudson River Valley, a detour made possible by grandparents eager to have time alone with their grandsons. I was elated – and envious – to see that almost every small town had its own indie bookstore. We visited Merritt Books (for sale, if anyone’s interested) in picturesque Millbrook, The Spotty Dog Books & Ale (excellent combo) in funky Hudson, Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, Inquiring Minds in New Paltz, and The Golden Notebook in Woodstock. We ventured as far north as Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, where tourists drank sulphur-y spring water that bubbled up into a fountain under a gazebo and readied themselves for the coming horse race season.
We headed south to Pennsylvania, picked up the kids and hauled them for the last leg of our tour across five states to Massachusetts, pausing for lunch (and a brief hello at Diane’s Books) in Greenwich, Connecticut.
To the people of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, vacation clearly meant summer reading. At Edgartown Books and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Martha’s Vineyard, long lines of shoppers patiently waited to buy their books. Likewise in Cape Cod, where we drove to towns whose names sounded like the omnipresent sand, marshes, and lobster – towns like Sandwich (Titcomb’s Bookshop) and Brewster (Brewster Bookstore). On the way to Chatham, we missed a turn and ended up in Orleans. Great news: Orleans has two bookstores. (Nice to meet you, Booksmith and Main Street Bookstore.) At our final bookstore, Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham, I was greeted by a sweet vision, a reward for the miles traveled: on the front table, Shelter Us shared space with Harper Lee and Anthony Doerr. Be still my heart.
Coming home after this tour, I long for my dearly departed Village Books, which did not survive the rise of rent, e-readers, and Amazon. I miss its floor mural of famous authors. I miss the wall displaying what the local book clubs were reading. I miss the chairs by the window, perfectly sunlit. I miss the children’s section, which I could never leave empty handed. I miss the author readings, the folding chairs brought out for people packed in to hear writers — the famous, the local, and sometimes captured in one person. I miss my favorite place in town, where some nights I would walk even after it closed, just to look in its window.
Home now in L.A., getting ready for the kids’ new school year and my next writing project, I’m held in the cradle of a vibrant indie bookstore world. My now-local bookstore, Diesel Brentwood, is only a ten minute drive away. In greater Los Angeles, freeways take me to Pages in Manhattan Beach, Bank of Books in Malibu and Ventura, Stories in Echo Park, Skylight in Silverlake, Book Soup in West Hollywood, Vroman’s in Pasadena, and The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. Beyond that horizon are indies in Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, and more. So although my local bookstore lives only in memories, I’m thrilled to know that so many indies are going strong. And I’m setting out to visit as many as I can. California…here I come.
About Laura Nicole Diamond
Laura Nicole Diamond is the Editor of Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, a collection of true stories by 20 writers. She is a civil rights lawyer and former Editor-In-Chief of L.A. Family Magazine. Laura also writes about family, parenting, and social justice for several publications, and on her blog, Confessions of Motherhood (www.Confessionsofmotherhood.com). She sits on the Board of Trustees of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless). Laura is a native of Los Angeles, where she resides with her family. Shelter Us is her first novel.