Can You Have a Crush on a Bookstore? I’m Gonna Say Yes.May 14, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I visited The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia for a book signing and chat. It was the next-to-last stop on my Localist book tour, and it’s only now that the tour is over that I’m writing about it (which is really a shame, because I missed maybe my only opportunity to correctly use the word “penultimate” in a blog headline).
For once, I haven’t been procrastinating. I’ve tried to write this blog a few times, and I couldn’t figure out a way to do it without basically gushing all over the place — about The Bookshelf, which is a beautiful and perfectly stocked store with great books and all sorts of lovely extras that add to the books without distracting from them, and about Thomasville, which is a charming town with good places to eat and shops that are actually fun to look around in (I usually get my fill of browsing in tourist shops in about ten seconds, but I enjoyed wandering and window-shopping here). If you’re looking for a place to spend a day waxing nostalgic about small-town charm, Thomasville couldn’t be more perfect. I mean, they were putting on a production of Anne of Green Gables across the street from the bookshop, for goodness sake. If your town can embrace Anne-with-an-E, you’re okay in my book.
And then there’s Annie, who runs The Bookshelf (and who I guess, technically, is also an Ann-with-an-E). We have a lot in common, to an almost creepy degree: We’re both booksellers who co-own our stores, sure. Our stores are both in really close-knit, walkable communities with lots of history that we enjoy but didn’t grow up with. We also blog, podcast, Instagram, and Facebook (not such common traits among booksellers). We’re tired of looking at our own faces on social media, but we keep using them anyway, because the books sell better when we do. We’re both obsessed with Parks and Rec. We even both worked in Birmingham at the very same magazine group (Southern Progress). We’re all charm and sweet smiles at our shops and online, but we’re both smart businesswomen underneath — serious about our businesses and unwilling to be pushed around. When my dad listened to the podcast Annie did with me, his comment was, “This is so weird. It’s like Carrie’s interviewing Carrie.”
I felt strange writing about Annie because saying “She’s awesome because she’s just like me!” seems self-centered (and bizarre). Anyway, it isn’t true — we’re definitely different people, but we agree that certain things in life are important … and one of those things is books. I love that Annie stands up for books, and that she values how they connect us to mystery and magic and community. (I also love that she doesn’t forget to talk about how fun they can be.) She works incredibly hard to read as much as she can and share as much as she can to bring the best books to her customers, and she’s completely committed to her community as well. I was looking back through her blog today, and I was struck by these words: “Celebrate music and books and creativity and community and excellence because that’s what book lovers do.”
This is exactly why books are so important to me — because they make us better people. They make us people who can understand other people’s struggles, who learn about different places in the world, who are willing to step out of our own perspectives for a few hours to learn the importance of someone else’s. They make us people who celebrate creativity and excellence. And Annie’s right — we aren’t supposed to sit back and keep all that knowledge and perspective to ourselves. We’re supposed to get out there and support art, become part of our communities, and be voices in a larger conversation that’s not just about us.
I’m so thankful for Annie because she reminds me to do those things. Visit Thomasville if you can, but until then visit The Bookshelf blog, read through her book selections, or listen to her podcast. I think you’ll love her as much as I do, and I think her words will inspire you to look outside yourself, too.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.