As you may have seen on Instagram, my family and I finally made it to Parnassus Books, a thriving independent bookstore in Nashville. (For the full story on the bookstore, read Ann Patchett’s fabulous piece in The Atlantic. Worth your time.)
Most years when we’re heading home we barrel through Nashville on I-65, not even stopping for gas. But this year we were determined to enjoy the journey instead of endure it, so we planned a leisurely stop for lunch and plenty of bookstore browsing.
It was well worth it. It’s a great little bookstore—and at 2500 square feet, it is little—but it was packed with good books and people who love them. (When we stopped by, it was also full of Bee Gees fans and disco balls, because drummer Dennis Bryon was giving a reading and signing his book You Should Be Dancing.)
We browsed, we got recommendations, we snacked on the cheese and crackers from the book signing. When we left an hour later, we walked out with a stack of six books (plus one glitter diary). I mentioned this on Instagram, and was hit with questions: Why buy those particular books there? How do you decide what to buy and what to borrow?
It’s a good question. I read a ton, but I buy only a small percentage of the books I read. My default setting is to borrow: I only want to own books I love (think Marie Kondo); I hate clutter—and books can easily become clutter.
(After attending a session at BEA about the power of libraries, I’m even more convinced that I’m doing books and their particular authors a service by lending or giving the books I don’t want to keep forever to other readers. Authors want to be read. And if I loan a book to a friend who didn’t have to buy it, she could spread the words to ten more friends who might.)
“Buy or borrow?” is a question I get all the time. One version of my answer is here: I buy books I’ll return to again and again, books I want to mark up, books I want reliable, easy access to, and books that will help my kids become lifelong readers.
As for “why these 6 books?”—I’ll break it down for you:
• Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling. All four kids are currently obsessed with Harry Potter (they were previously reading borrowed versions from Oyster), all four will read this, and one child wanted to read it immediately, on the last leg of our car trip. When it comes to bookstore purchases, timing matters.
• Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Same as above. (It was a blessedly quiet car ride.)
• Mo’Ne Davis: Remember My Name, by Mo’Ne Davis. Davis was the first female to pitch in the Little League World Series, which Jack follows closely. This was his pick. (He read half of it in the car on the way home. Again, timing.)
• Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin. This was Sarah’s pick (with a nudge from me and the resident children’s expert). She also read it in the car.
• Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande. I would have preferred to borrow this one first, but I requested it from my library six months ago and I’m still number 100-something on the waiting list. It helps that everyone I talk to about this book tells me it’s fabulous.
• We All Looked Up, Tommy Wallach. I’d never heard of this YA novel (“technically YA, but it’s for everyone” according to one employee) before I plucked it off the staff-recommended shelves, but as I carried it around the store, 3 different employees told me it was a good pick. My copy is autographed, which is fun.
I don’t usually buy six books at a time unless it’s Christmas. We bought these because the timing was right: we happened to be on a road trip, but “good timing” can also look like a new release I’m itching to read, a birthday, or a case of finding the right book at the right time. At my local indie, I’ve learned that they tend to put out hot new releases the weekend before (unless they’re contractually obligated not to) and when I’m impatiently waiting for a new title, five days early is good timing indeed.
We bought books the kids were excited about reading right then, because we want them to love reading.
I often buy—instead of borrow—to support author and blogger friends, but that wasn’t the case with any of these.
We also bought these to support Parnassus in particular and indies everywhere: I’m grateful for the beautiful store with its wood floors, tall ceilings, and clean bathrooms. (Again, road trip.) I’m appreciative of the welcoming, brightly lit children’s section that gives my kids warm fuzzy feelings about reading.
I love the opportunity to get reading recommendations from helpful employees who sell books like it’s their job, because it is.
Good spaces and good people aren’t cheap, and so we buy independent—not always, but often—when we’re at home and when we’re on the road, because we value what they do and our purchases help them do it.
Yesterday on facebook I asked what the last book you bought was, and it was so much fun to scroll through your responses.
In comments, would you tell us what the last book you bought was, and also WHY, because it’s so interesting to hear the bookish details. I’d also love to hear how YOU decide what to buy and what to borrow.