Author John Green has a catch phrase for his young audience: "Don't forget to be awesome."
I think I know a bookstore where Green would feel right at home.
Scout and Morgan Books is tucked just off the main crossroads through Cambridge, MN, in a shopping area with a generous parking lot (the local farmers market was under way when I pulled in late Saturday morning). The building doesn't feel at all like a strip mall, because it houses the bookstore together with a coffee shop and natural foods store that are connected internally as well as to the parking.
But what really sets it apart is the warm, bookish feel of the place. It has a bright, uncluttered density that clearly says good books can be found here—the sort of vibe I get when I walk into a high quality used bookstore and know I'll find something I want that I didn't know I was looking for.
I mentioned to owner Judith Kissner that it reminded me of those comfortable, classic stores I loved to visit in other cities, when Susan and I would return with bags of great books.
She told me that in her previous life as a flight attendant, she used to do the same thing, and when she started her store, it was with that model in mind. Mission accomplished.
Since then, she's added new, current stock as well, and with that mix, her store reminds me of my hometown favorite, Grand Valley Books.
I was there for a reading and book signing today and immediately saw a few other things to warm my heart: An ample supply of books near the front and an arrangement of chairs that would let me feel like I filled the place. (I did.)
As we approached starting time, a couple more subtleties became apparent. In the audience was a member of a local book club that had recently selected Monument Road; a couple who told me they came to the store once a week and made it a point never to miss the store's book events; and several more readers who'd already finished the book.
But as an author, I also appreciated a move Judith made shortly before my talk started. Two customers were on the way out the door when she stopped them and told them what was going on, that they would enjoy it, and they came back in. That's a sign of a bookseller who knows how to sell but also of a clientele that has come to trust their bookseller's recommendations.
After the event, a high school girl came in to purchase The Fault in Our Stars after seeing the film. Judith pointed her to John Green's Crash Course YouTube channel as a great source for understanding the books she'll be reading in her literature classes.
And most heartwarming of all, Judith had me sign the remaining stock. "We don't return these," she said. "We'll sell them all."
I have no doubt.