Today was Independent Bookstore Day, a.k.a. something that should be a national holiday. 10 Minneapolis bookstores teamed up to create a bookstore “Passport,” and if you got ten stamps, you would get a gift card from each bookstore for $10.
A lesser prize would have ignited the fire in me, but that certainly did. I mapped out my route and enlisted a friend to meet me along the way.
I even printed out 6 pages of directions from place to place to ensure efficiency.
The day started by struggling to find a parking space because the area around Common Good Books (Garrison Keillor, proprietor) was bustling, but I made it there just before ten and got my copies of Raymie Nightingale just before they ran out then hopped in line to meet Kate DiCamillo and get them signed.
I don’t fangirl over everyone, but this was a special moment. Kate DiCamillo is so kind, took the time to actually talk to every person who came up for an autograph. I watched her signing and listened in while I was in line (unabashedly eavesdropping) and saw her actually paying attention to people. This wasn’t a commercial affair, which made it all the more special.
I was flying high when I left Common Good, headed for The Red Balloon, where I saw the real! live! mouse! from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (though, in reality a human in a mouse costume… but I chose to be duped).
Also spotted: the limited edition “Read-with-me” Curious George plush toys, an unattended baby who was very cute and very asleep (by unattended, I mean, it wasn’t obvious which of the nearby mothers belonged to the sweet thing), and a co-worker. I also saw a couple of the people I’d seen at Common Good… then saw them again at the next place, Subtext Books.
My last stop in St. Paul before crossing the river to Minneapolis, Subtext was a smaller but largely delightful stop. I bought Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things there because I’ve checked it out from the library twice and haven’t gotten to it before it’s due again. So now I’ll just read it on my own time.
Three bookstores in, and it wasn’t even noon.
I picked up Emma, and we went to Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, then rushed over to Birchbark Books & Native Arts (Louise Erdrich is the owner there) to see Beth Dooley (author of In Winter’s Kitchen, which I highly recommend to food writing/nature/memoir fans). Alas, half an hour after (at least, I thought) Beth was slated to be speaking, R.T Rybak was still reading from Pothole Confidential. It sounded like it was a good book, from what I was hearing, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see Beth. Turns out I had the time wrong.
Emma, saint that she is, had brought along a picnic lunch for us, so we grabbed that and sat by Lake of the Isles to refuel before heading to Once Upon a Crime.
It was a bit windy, but “We’re Minnesotans!”, as Emma put it, and we braved it and even enjoyed it though both our hands turned purple and the warm car did feel nice after that.
On to Once Upon a Crime, which we discovered was not, in fact, on the Passport. But we had a good time browsing there anyways.
Why independent bookstores? you may ask. Why is there a whole day set aside for indies? Because buying books can be sitting alone at your computer and choosing your shipping method, or it can be visiting a vibrant bookstore where the people care what you read and the books are chosen carefully to fit a certain niche. It can be finding a book you have no idea existed and never knew could exist. And it can be supporting wonderful, literature-loving people’s livelihoods.
Also, where else would you find a book called Laying Down the Paw than at an indie mystery bookstore?
Next up was Magers & Quinn, a much beloved haunt of mine. I always find something I want to take home and read when I visit there, usually something I hadn’t even heard of previously.
On we went, energy still up, to Wild Rumpus, an award-winning children’s bookstore, where I bought a picture book that teaches life lessons in relation to cookies.
I’ll read that book aloud to anyone. You just let me know when you want, and we’ll sit down and learn about trustworthiness and respect in relation to cookies.
We took an ice cream break at Sebastian Joe’s then pressed on. There was more to see! More stamps to be had!
Next up was Paperback Exchange, where Emma took my recommendation and bought The Poisonwood Bible. That was one store I could see myself spending a good chunk of time in. Emma was amazed at all the books. So many!
That’s another I could see myself spending a lot more time in. They had the funniest greeting cards to go along with their great selection of books.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. It might seem redundant to go to the same type of store eleven times in one day, but books don’t get old. Not when you’re shopping at places like these. Sure, you’ll see some of the same titles a couple times, especially if they’re new, but the thing about indies is that they all have some sort of niche and offer something just a little bit different than the others. So you’ll see books you’ve never seen before by people you’d never heard of. It’s overwhelmingly fabulous.
All in all, I think I can declare Independent Bookstore Day my favorite secular holiday.