Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Expiring Bookstore

Not far from my house, though not ideally close either, is a bookstore tucked into a neighborhood rich with galleries, antique shops and old-school, diner-style cafes. Open the doors and you're greeted with that rich, somewhat musty smell of used books. Besides the tall walls lined with books and the rolling ladders for reaching the uppermost stacks, it looks like a living room that hasn't been updated since the '40s. There are a number of large lazy cats draped over coffee tables and end tables. You wander about, intrigued by quirky titles everywhere you look, and every time you think you've exhausted the place you find another room, another nook, another stack of un-shelved books with just the thing you didn't know you were looking for. It's the perfect place to get lost. Or found. Or something.

The place is Loganberry Books and if you're ever in the Cleveland area, you should check it out (but beware, the hours are frustratingly limited). It's the kind of bookstore in which most of the stories featured in Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores, Edited by Greg Ketter, are set. Each of these stories involves a bookstore, or the books within it in unique and imaginative ways. A few samples: a store that sells a book which finds or generates a story to guide it's readers life choices, a store which helps Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Germany, a store invaded by Pixies, one owned and run by an ancient Egyptian conqueror. It features authors such as Gene Wolfe, Charles de Lint, Jack Williamson, Harlan Ellison and many you may never have heard of but that you'll be glad you discovered. Besides books, the stories do feature a lot of cats.

To open this unique collection Neil Gaiman has provided an introduction, a sort of memoire of the bookstores that fed his life-long addiction to science fiction and fantasy. It's written with his usual sensitivity and charm. Reading this, and the stories that follow it made me think that this book comes just in time. Perversely, I read an eBook galley copy on my Nook. Thanks in part to eBooks (which, don't get me wrong, have a lot to recommend them) the bookstore is a dying breed. Even if you don't read Shelf Life, do yourself a favor and find that lovely independent and/or used bookstore in your town or neighborhood. If it's already gone, mourn a little, then go to a nearby town. Be sure to buy something before you leave, but spend some time in there and breathe in its atmosphere while you still can.

Shelf Life is forthcoming from Prime Books and will be released on Halloween. The publisher provided a time-limited eBook galley for this review.


Man of la Book said...

How did I miss a new Gaiman book?

Sarah Stevenson said...

This sounds great! I'll keep an eye out for it. Sadly, we only have one independent bookstore in town besides the B&N, and it only sells used books, so I might have to order my copy...