When I say I love books, I mean books, the real thing. Bound, spiral, note, they are all wonderful. I will take a book I can hold in my hand and turn the pages over an eBook any day. Don’t get me wrong I understand the benefits of reading on an e-reader or a phone or a tablet, but nothing is better than holding a book. So, when it comes to buying a book I would much rather walk into a locally owned store and purchase it. Bookstore Explorer West Virginia by Logan native Matt Browning is a road map to independent bookstores across the state where I can do just that.
Stores in Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling, Parkersburg, Shepherdstown and everywhere in between are represented. Each location is a character in the book with their personality coming through based on their location, owner, clientele and the type of books that make up the store.
Matt visited each location talking to the owners and book sellers getting their perspective on why the independent bookstore is still not only around but, in some cases, thriving.
These stores are focused on their customers, not sales goals, the hottest new release or what’s popular. As Tammy Dotson of The Hatter’s Bookshop in Princeton explains it, she wants to know her customer by their name and something about them. This feeling echoes through comments of several of the owners in the book.
Some of the owners comment on the importance of being versatile. Whether that’s also offering food, coffee, gift items or teaching supplies each one has adapted their business to be its most successful.
There are various types of stores represented, one is online, one is a series of locations where the owner puts bookshelves into other businesses sort of like renting a space. Others are standalone buildings and others are in flea and farmers’ markets. Tamarack while not an independent bookstore in the traditional sense, is a wonderful way for West Virginia writers to get their books exposed to travelers who normally would not get off exits to seek them out.
A Who’s Who of West Virginia writers make an appearance in the book as well. Giving their thoughts, feelings and support of locally owned bookstores and what they mean and will continue to mean to writers and their readers.
Matt did his homework and the fact that he traveled to each location makes the book all the more informative. His in-depth interviews with the proprietors, associates and local writers take you on an adventure that crosses the state, captures the imagination and has you wanting to plan a road trip using his book as your guide. Now where are my car keys?