A good bookstore is an essential part of any community. This thesis requires clarification, I suppose. What exactly, in my opinion, makes a good bookstore?

Let’s begin by examining what makes one not so good.

Walk into one of the nationwide chains (of which there’s only one now, I think) and you’re immediately inundated by…what? Marketing. Product branding. Employees who often have little idea about what they’re selling.

Okay. That was easy. No reason to elaborate.

What makes a good bookstore is a little more layered. Foremost, passion. A passion for books and all that they encompass – stories, knowledge, imagination. Books connect us to other places, cultures, worlds, real or otherwise, and other readers. And a bookstore should be a conduit for that connection, and that passion. It’s an unmistakable sensation the moment you walk through just such a bookshop’s doors.

The other thing you should notice, though a bit more nuanced, is a bookstore’s individual personality; a reflection of the owner, the employees, and the community of which it is a part.

There’s a shop on one of the islands here, run by a woman whose quirky character is evident in the disheveled arrangement of her categories and their books, and the crooked, hand-painted signage promoting the latest bestsellers and new releases. She’s a hoot, and her customers love her. Because they’re just as quirky as she is.

One of my favorite stores to visit is as warm and inviting as the neighborhood where it’s located. In fact, its main peculiarity is that it is the only business in a three to four block area of homes and apartments, as though it were just another friendly neighbor; one of ideas and tales that welcomes you into its living room for coffee whenever you like.

There’s a small location that specializes in poetry, where the employees and patrons live and breath the collections within. To them, poetry is as essential as food and sleep. A business more in tune with the product it sells and its customers I’ve never seen.

My favorite part about all these shops? They each have a section dedicated to local authors – independent or otherwise. As a writer and a reader, I get the best of both worlds: a symbiotic professional relationship, and a place to satisfy my bibliophile urges.

Gordon Gravley