You’ve all heard the stories, seen the empty storehouse; it seems another independent bookstore closes on a predictable basis. In Newnan for example, the darkened doorway of the once glowing book palace Scott’s Bookstore serves as a reminder that no great thing can be taken for granted.
As I walked past it recently, I witnessed two workmen clearing out the dusty interior, perhaps making way for more Vera Bradley on the courthouse square. Colorful murals with quotes from famous writers still peeked through the grimy windows. I didn’t see Scott’s when it was filled with anxious fans eager for their favorite author visits, yet the heartbreaking sight made me want to cry. You blink and children’s storybook times disappears
It’s not only independent booksellers that are touched. The monolith Borders closed all its stores, and the others, Barnes & Noble, Half Price Books and the like, have scrapped to keep out of the red. Barnes & Noble saw a nearly seven percent drop in revenue in its first 2016-2017 quarter according to Publisher’s Weekly. Maybe people just don’t read anymore, or they’re pumping money into the Amazon machine. Readers who prefer an in-store experience may be doomed to online obscurity.
These past couple weeks, I engaged in a noble experiment to answer a troubling question: What qualities make up the best local bookstores?
My quest sent me to Barnes & Noble at Ashley Park in Newnan. The only real bookstore in the county since Scott’s closed in 2012. Judging by the immense size of the building, a newcomer can be daunted by all the displays and promotions, forever lost in the relentless rows of bookshelves. However, I found that not unlike joining a large church body, once you discover your niche you can anchor yourself and feel more at ease.
Case in point: the local author’s section. For readers who wish to support writers working in their area, Barnes & Noble shelves regional titles together. I found an excellent selection of titles written by authors from Newnan and other parts of Georgia. I left the store with seven new books to add to my library.
- Hidden South by Brent Walker. By far the highlight find of my trip, this southern odyssey put on display the faces of the south that usually remain shrouded in shadow. The title imitates an expanded version of the Humans of New York pieces we have seen, except using residents below the Mason-Dixon line. Many of the people featured are native Georgians, but each of the individuals has their own unique and captivating story. Paired with beautiful and daunting photography, this book has both literary and artistic merit.
- Not A Blueprint: It’s the shoeprints that matter by Nina Norstrom. My copy came with an autograph and her card. The memoir follows the author’s struggles dealing with toxic people and how they affect her life. The book branches into some uneven terrain that many people could relate to.
- Lockdown by Scott Black. This book also came autographed, a pleasant surprise. Lockdown recreates the true events revolving around a violent attack of a shipmate on U.S.S Miller, with the identity of the attacker unknown. Those aboard must figure out who to trust and who is to blame. Mystery lovers will enjoy sinking their teeth into this historical caper.
- Lightning Strikes Twice by Mac O’Shea. This book functions as a riveting critical essay that explores the private corruptions in public universities. As a retired professor and administrator at the University of Missouri, O’Shea commands a considerable about of credibility in this topic. As a college student, I am eager to see what insights he has on some of the pitfalls of the university system.
- Immediate Dead by Blue Cole. A chilling mystery-thriller, Immediate Deadfocuses on a homicide detective who can communicate with deceased people. He and his new partner Sandy Cooper must find a serial killer who decides to attack doctors. I’m sure the novel delves into some interesting territory, a perfect pick for those interested in criminal psychology and the supernatural.
- She’s a Keeper! Anecdotes from A Southern Girl’s Attic by Lee St. John. A charming collection of short non-fiction stories chronicled with a tangible object cluttering the author’s attic. The structure proves endearing and helpful in the telling of her complicated past. She reminds me much of my own mother. I’m sure other readers will experience a similar nostalgia. This read serves as a comfort and a joy to those that open its concise pages.
- Managing Time: The Inmate’s Guide to Serving Time Productively by Lalo Gomez. Part memoir, part devotional, part self-help, this piece of literature crosses genre with considerable ease while discussing a lifestyle many of us have trouble understanding. America incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, so a guide book for those dealing with their time in prison makes sense. I imagine it could help loved ones to figure out how to help their incarcerated family members or anyone wanting to know more about life behind bars.
There were other highlights of my field trips. The café satisfied my thirst and hunger while my new purchases provided literary nourishment. I can imagine the next Jodi Picoult tapping away in the corner of the lounge, using free Wi-Fi and sipping black coffee.
My dream bookstore is the cozy indie style with cushy chairs and stacks of used books. Barnes & Noble offers a different experience, yet I felt as satisfied in the big box retailer as any indie hangout. I assumed that a mammoth bookstore could not maintain the warmth of my local establishments, but it isn’t fair to view one store through the lenses of another. Each store possesses its own merits and requires judgment as a separate entity. After all, any business that devotes itself to the love of books must have something good at its heart.
*Some photos used from Scott’s Bookstore Facebook Page. Thank you.