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On Bookstores, a Monday Musing

musingmondays1 Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book stores…

How do you choose what do buy from your local bookstore? Do you have a list, or just browse? What is the selection in your book store like? Do you find what you’re looking for? Do you feel pressured to buy the kind of books the store makes prominent?

I always bring my book acquisition list with me to the bookstores. The list, which keeps getting longer and comprehensive thanks to all the book bloggers, is generated by excel spreadsheet. I know I’m such a nerd. With all the book recommendation, chance encounter, reviews from the papers, I need to develop a systematic way to keep track of books I wish to buy and to check out from the library. High-priority books are those of my favorite authors and genres, like historical fiction and literary fiction. They would be the prime target at the bookstores.

When I don’t have my list with me, I enjoy browsing and walking through the aisles. I look for books for which staff (usually at indies) have written recommendation on index cards. If time permits I would do what librarians call “shelf-reading,” checking titles on the shelf and see what catch my eyes. Capricious mood would also factor in my purchases, for example, I’ve been buying African American literature for Black History Month. In addition to Toni Morrison, I’ll be reading Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, N. Scott Momaday, and Walter Mosley this month.

San Francisco is the haven of indies, despite some recent bad news that clouded over the industry. Local bookstores, however, are still thriving, carving a niche in the adverse business condition. Each one of them is endowed with individual character. Selection as a whole, citywise, is more than enough to accommodate my eclectic reading taste. The Books Inc. in the Castro stocks up titles in gay and lesbian literature that you wouldn’t find in any where else in the city. Whereas the same bookstore, at its Laurel Height location, emphasizes in comfort reads, chick lit, and books that cater toward book group. Aarvark’s on Church Street and Bibliohead on Gough in the Hayes Valley have some of the best used fiction selection. The latest player Booksmith on Haight Street spices up readers’ taste with some of the most usual grouping of books. Dog Ear Books on Valencia and Phoenix Books in Noe Valley have big sections on children’s books. The ultimate grand central station of books is, of course, Green Apple Books on 6th and Clement in the Richmond. The annex, a few doors down from the main store, which houses the fiction and DVDs, can entertain me all day.

Further reading
What’s a Bookstore

20 Responses

  1. I do everything you mention except use a list – look for recommendations from bloggers, browse, scan shelves… I do love just idly browsing.

  2. If I am really a productive girl through the week, I will treat myself with a little jaunt to the closest bookstore. Sometimes I will go with a mission in mind and my list in hand, and sometimes I just like to surprise myself. I laugh at the excel spreadsheet…that is my next step. My “lists” are out of control. I have a huge wad of them flying around my desk. There are my challenge lists, lists printed from e-mails from friends, and the general list where I write down blogger recommendations and interesting reviews.

  3. Sunday pavement book Bazaar in Delhi, is paradise for book lovers. It is a must stop for me once a month. I usually get great books dirt cheap.

    Here are my musings

  4. When the bookstores are closed I enjoy browsing the online book-swapping sites like http://www.bookins.com, where they have reviews from their members and also the Amazon reviews of the half-million-plus books they have available. I’ve saved myself a lot of money by buying used and I usually get books that still have that “new book smell” within a month of their publication.

  5. Like you, I’ve also been heavily swayed by book blogger recommendations when it comes to looking for books. However, I tend to have a really good memory for names/titles as well as cover art, so I keep those things tucked away in my mind and allow the alphabet to act as a memory trigger!

    Of late, I’ve really strayed away from buying from the local bookstore (which is a huge chain). The only way I’m tempted is if they have books on their promos/deals table that I’m interested in. Otherwise, I go to the second-hand bookstore which has a fabulous selection, and I use what they have in stock as a means of determining which of my “to obtain” books I should actually buy. I think the only way I’d buy a book new anymore is if it were by an author that I really adored (Jane Austen’s not publishing anymore, is she? 😉 ) and who had a proven track-record with me.

    Sometimes I’ll buy online, but when it comes to browsing and coming up with new book ideas, nothing beats a physical bookstore, in my opinion!

  6. If you live in a rural area, like me, the local bookstores don’t have a lot of selection, so I tend to search for books on my list at Amazon and the library (the public library catalog is available online). When I get to a bigger bookstore, I browse. My whole family will hang out in a bookstore reading for an hour or two on those rare occasions we get to one.

  7. I have lists galore of books I’d like to read and buy. Yet, for some reason I never have them when I’m actually in the bookstore. If I’m being stubborn, I’ll stand in the middle of the store trying to recall the titles or authors I wanted to read. But usually I just end up browsing.

  8. My hubby and I tend to go to a bookstore that has some new books but mostly used books that are well taken care of. I usually always have a list because at this bookstore you have to know the Authors name to find stuff. If we can’t find what we want there then we will go to the big chain stores or order off of Amazon. We used to go to the library but they never have in what I want to read, so now we buy all the time.

  9. Ooh a spreadsheet! I never thought of that.

  10. What a wonderful assortment of independent bookstores! Sadly, we have very few in our local area. I do my best to support Books Connection, which is my local used/indepenent store. It’s a treasure!

  11. I have an excel spread sheet too, except its of books i want to read that my library has so that I don’t buy them. The list of to-buy books is scribbled on an index card and used for a bookmark since I always keep my book in my purse.

  12. I have a handwritten list. I guess I’m not sophidticated enough to do the excel thing…

    I envy your indie bookstores. We only have Borders and B&N, so I normally order online now.

  13. Browsing is my favorite thing to do. I seldom use a list, though I often have certain authors in mind when I drop into a bookstore. I suppose about half the time I wind up buying a book I discovered that particular visit.

  14. I find that lately, whenever I bring a list, I can never find what it is I’m looking for…besides…lists make things seem far to structured at times. I love being able to just wander around the store. I only wish we had the independent book stores that you find in larger cities…independents tend to know more about/take more pride in the books than your larger chains and are far more intimate/personal. It’s more about quality with the independent store…

  15. I am so jealous of all the Indies near you. rural PA doesn’t have the same selection.

  16. You’re more oganized than me, with the list and everything! I agree excel spreadsheet is a wonderful tool for adding on lists, it’s so convenient and easy to use but I suppose I’m too lazy to do that, LOL. Most of the times I rely on my memory, and of course I prioritize the books I want to buy.

    I wish we’ve more of those indies here. 😉

  17. Matt–this has nothing to do with this post. I’d like to ask you about something. Could you please email me? Thanks!

  18. I must move to San Francisco. I would love to be able to walk around the city and visit different bookstores that all catered to different niches. I read your post about Stacy’s Bookstore. It’s hard to imagine having a business around for all of those years and in less than a blink of an eye…it’s gone!!!

    I almost always take a notepad with me to write down titles that catch my eye as I’m browsing the shelves. I just recently purchased 6 books this past month or two. Normally, I get all my stuff from the library because I have over 80+ books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet!!!

    I would buy all my books from an Indie store but the closest one is about 2 hours away. I only live 13 miles from a B/N…your post has made me think a little harder about where I SHOULD be spending my $$$. B&N, Amazon, all of those I think will still be around whether I spend money there or not, so I’m going to try harder to make a point that when I’m ready to buy some books that I will buy from an Indie bookstore.

  19. I used to have an excel spreadsheet too 🙂
    I love to spend time shelf-reading. Especially I’ve noticed that at Indie bookstores you are more liable to find unusual books that way – like indie publishers, translations, etc.

  20. […] have talked about local bookstores in a previous Monday musing post and described my vision of a bookstore. For this week’s answer, I will discuss in depth the […]

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