Importance of Bookstores


After reading a New Yorker article that questions the dwindling presence of bookstores, I began to reminisce on my childhood bookstore. I begged my mother every day to take me to the bookstore. Buying a book was much more satisfying to me than checking a book out at my school library—I got to keep the treasured story on my bedside table instead of returning it to the librarian and had the ability to reread the intriguing plotline whenever I wanted.  

 Upon entering my bookstore, I entered a haven—a comforting atmosphere surrounded by thrilling tales of adventure that captivated my adolescent minds. The employees greeted me with welcoming smiles, and I bee-lined for the children’s section, selecting as many books that I could fit in my arms, plopping down in the middle of the bookshelves on the carpeted floor, spreading out the books, admiring the eye-catching covers. The fresh stories dawned beautiful pictures on crisp pages; I buried my nose into the binding to inhale that fresh new bookstore smell (everyone knows and loves that smell—there’s no denying it).  I had an allegiance to my bookstore—feeling guilty if I visited another location to buy a book. The New Yorker article states, “Those of us who cherish our local bookstores do so not simply because they are convenient—how great to be able to run out for milk and also pick up the new Karl Ove Knausgaard!—but also because we feel a duty to support them, because we believe in their mission.”  It was about more than just the book—it was about the whole experience. The bookstore fostered my love for literature at an early age. The nurturing environment encouraged reading, which made me feel comfortable among the books. From there I jumped into stories that kept me interested in books. From E.B. White to Judy Blume to J.K. Rowling—my passion for literature grew with each visit.


 Today’s diminishing presence of bookstores makes me nervous. My childhood bookstore went out of business eight years ago. The vacant building broadcasts a dusty “For Rent” sign collecting dust on the milky, dirty windowpanes. The market for books is changing. The rise of the Internet and online shopping carves a convenient path for delivering books directly to my front door. But where is the experience in that? The bookstore environment encourages a love for the text, for the characters, for the author. The experience is irreplaceable—strolling through the shelves, observing colorful book covers, searching for the desired author. It’s lugging an armful of books to the counter. It’s carrying a new story out of the store. It’s bending the corners of pages. It’s inhaling the unique smell. The welcoming atmosphere encourages reading; the bookstores foster a love for literature within the minds of children.

 I believe in the mission of bookstores. I believe in creating a pleasant domain where children feel comfortable diving into a book, expanding their imaginations through exciting plotlines. I believe in promoting the importance of children’s literature, for it stands as the platform from which children cultivate a greater love for reading, expanding their palate through adult literature that spans from different centuries and continents. Instilling a love for literature at an early age fosters a lifelong love for it within our children. Despite society’s technological advances in the book world, there is still a need for bookstores.

 Where do you stand? What cultivated your love for literature? What happened to your childhood bookstore?

About Grace Haynes

Grace Haynes is the Submissions Editor for Shenandoah. She is a junior English major and Creative Writing minor from Montgomery, Alabama.

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4 Responses to Importance of Bookstores

  1. Anna DiBenedetto says:

    While most people talk about the shift from print to electronic– in terms of eBooks, kindles and ipads–and print as a dying business, I think you bring up a good point in highlighting the fact that this shift has also caused a decline in bookstores. I can’t remember the last time I went my neighborhood bookstore; and the last time I went to a Barnes & Noble was just so that I could pick up a dark roast from Starbucks. Part of the whole book experience is, like you say, going to the store and picking it out yourself. By taking that experience away, I almost feel as if you are taking some sort of magic away from the book, as well.

  2. Laura Berry says:

    I grew up in a very rural town, one without a locally owned bookstore, but in the small beach town in North Carolina where I’ve spent most of my summers, I have a favorite. I’m happy to say it’s still hanging on, but I’ve noticed a shift in inventory. Where there used to be a series of bookshelves dominating the small space, there are now only three. The rest of the area is filled with local art, jewelry, and different odds and ends. I’m glad that the store is still around for me to relive my memories (like crashing my bike into its front door when I was 9), but it has lost a bit of its magic since becoming more of a variety store. The shift from print to electronic books has probably been particularly hard on local businesses, and it makes me sad that having a noble “mission” isn’t always cutting it for them.

  3. Bella Zuroski says:

    Grace –
    This blog post immediately brought to mind a bookstore somewhere in New York City that my Aunt Annie used to bring me to as a child. I say “somewhere in New York City” because the last time I went there I was probably six years old, and have no recollection of its name or idea where it was other than probably somewhere around her apartment right near Little Italy. What I do remember, though, is that this bookstore had its very own tree fort for reading. Steps curved around the tree’s trunk and led to the perfect little reading nest, filled with cozy pillows. Although less unique or special, I also have very fond memories of my mom taking me on trips to Barnes & Noble during my childhood, and I still get unnaturally excited when I get to go there. I know this might make me sound like the the bad guy Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail,” imperiling Meg Ryan’s independent bookshop with my corporate, Starbucks drenched fist, but those visits really were special to me. Whenever I walk into a bookstore (especially a Barnes & Noble) now, that specific smell of coffee and book pages makes my heart skip a beat.

  4. Christian Kennedy says:

    Grace – The picture along with your post reminded me of a bookstore my father would drag me to in Minneapolis. At the time, I did not appreciate the many hours spent wandering the aisles of the history section, but now I have quite a different perspective. I think there is something to be said about a place where knowledge is presented to you in such a physical fashion. There is always something overwhelmingly moving about looking around a bookstore at thousands of collections of paper, realizing both the unlimited knowledge that lies between the pages, but also the potential for personal growth and revelation. If all of the bookstores fall to waste someday, I will still find solace in my small but spunky collection of about 50 books, a small bookstore of my own.

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