I’ve been thinking about bookstores.
Maybe this is natural for someone who has a new book release in a few days. You find yourself worrying about who will sell it and how; who is going to buy it.
We’ve been lamenting the decline of brick-and-mortar retail for quite a while now. For the most part, we can satisfy our need to purchase goods online. But we have experienced genuine anguish as some unique community gathering places have closed their doors.
Books can easily be acquired online, but other local bookstore “offerings” can’t be.
I recall Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks), owner of Fox Books in the film You’ve Got Mail. He says of his store, “I said we were great. I said you could sit and read for hours, and no one will bother you. I said we have a hundred and fifty thousand titles. I showed them the New York City section. I said we were a ******* piazza! A place in the city where people can mingle and mix and be.”
Fox Books is a megastore that’s devouring all the little independent bookstores in its path. But it is still the piazza that Joe Fox describes – a tangible space where people can gather, where community relationships are forged and strengthened. There is nothing like a period of isolation to remind us how much we need places where we can mingle, mix, and be.
My friend, Julie Berry, an award-winning novelist, bought a bookstore in her childhood hometown last year. You can read her story here. It was not the most auspicious time to be starting a new business, but Julie has found that the death knell of the brick-and-mortar bookstore has been rung too soon. Yes, it’s a challenging time to be in retail. But people love—and need—their community bookstore.
Even before they opened the store, Julie said, “I have been blown away by the special orders and the outreach that I’ve received from people who live an hour away, but clearly frequent the store to pick up online orders and make a point of coming here to place orders. That’s just kind of how life is out here. Being in the local community is important to them.”
My relatively small town in Virginia has two bookstores. One sells new books—and toys and puzzles and games, etc. Like many bookstores now do. The other is a (mostly) used bookstore with narrow aisles, tall shelves, the odor of dusty old books, haphazard organization, including random stacks of books on the floor. A challenge if you’re looking for something specific, but a place you can browse for hours in a spirit of adventurous discovery. I would hate for either store to go away.
What role does your local bookstore play in your life and community? I encourage you to think about giving it a boost soon.
This week’s podcast features a discussion of a new article we have being published in the Harvard Business Review magazine this month in connection with the new book. Space constraints meant that many of the great stories we discovered and loved couldn’t make it into the article. We have a chance to share them—and you have an opportunity to hear them—on this week’s episode. Please join us.
Remember to get your ticket for our online gathering – Begin, Grow, Pivot, Learn on January 20. Guests include Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me for a 90-minute interactive experience. Leave with insights and tools to grow as you hope to in 2022. If you pre-order a book you will receive a free ticket.
As always, thank you for being here!
P.S. Reader Gary Gruber responded to last week’s newsletter on the Great Aspiration, writing, “What if we were to think of dissolutions and solutions instead of resolutions? Change the way you think, and you change your world. I aspire for less in 2022, thus having more.” Food for thought that I wanted to share with you.
P.P.S. Gary also shared a wonderful piece from Maria Popova, intellect extraordinaire, and a favorite of mine for rare and beautiful ideas. Here you can read her perspective on resolutions.