Last week I got the great news Monument Road has been selected by independent booksellers as one of ten adult fiction titles for the American Booksellers Association's fall "Celebrate Debut Authors With Indies" promotion.
That means traveling to New York City for the BookExpo America and hobnobbing, however briefly, with booksellers and librarians from around the country.
Having a novel about to launch will forge a new relationship with booksellers, and it's gotten me thinking more deeply about my personal history with the book business—as a customer, store employee, book scout, book marketer, reviewer—and builder of non-compliant stairway bookcases.
Admittedly, my experiences span a lot of years, but it's sobering that so many of these important places exist now only in memory.
As I visit stores in conjunction with the book promotion, I'll write about them. But meantime, I'll do a series of posts about the places that left me booksmitten, starting with the first important shop in my life.
I grew up in a small resort town in Colorado that had no bookstore I can recall, but the public library had a great selection of books for young people and I was allowed to use some of my paper route money to subscribe to comic books.
My parents belonged to Book of the Month Club and ordered all the titles from the We Were There series of (mostly American) historical novels written for children, with titles like We Were There on the Oregon Trail and We Were There with the Pony Express. Those books made me feel like pre-teens could be part of great events and not just play sports and solve improbable mysteries. (I think my nifty child's book plates came as a perk for subcribing.)
When I was 15 my family moved to Grand Junction, where I finally experienced a real bookstore. I bought Alan Ginsberg's Howl at Readmore Books, an independent bookseller on Main Street, and sampled exotic writers like ee cummings and Ezra Pound at the library. But the library also sheltered me from the scandalous local author Dalton Trumbo and who knows what else?
The changes occuring in America during the mid-60s rarely made it in the local news and they surely didn't fit with the community mores in a smallish western city. As kid who tilted well left in a conservative area, I had very few peers and no approved venues for expression.
Readmore became my lifeline to the rest of the world. It was vital to my intellectual and political development not just as a bookstore but as a source of periodicals—especially those dedicated to new and controversial voices.
Alongside more mainstream journals like The New Yorker and The New Republic, I could find magazines like Ramparts, Avant Garde and Fact—publications that did not appear on the library shelves or at the drugstore.
Readmore is gone now, but its spirit is carried on by two indies on Main Street, and its importance to a developing young writer abides in my bones.