I don’t know about you, but I miss bookstores. I miss browsing through musty used books and happening upon a treasure — a title I didn’t know existed, or a book I’d been searching for for a long time. You know. You do this, too, I bet — or did, before the pandemic closed everything.
And I miss heading down to a bookstore on a Sunday afternoon to pick up a shiny new book that was just reviewed.
I miss a lot of things right now: going out to eat; hopping in the car and heading out somewhere (anywhere, the dentist, I don’t care); visiting friends; having friends visit me. Mostly, though, I miss bookstores.
We are rich in bookstores here, and our booksellers are rich in creativity. Right now they are finding all kinds of ways to keep us engaged until they can open their doors again.
From online ordering to curbside pickup to serving as personal shoppers, they are making it as easy as possible for us to get our books from them instead of, you know, from the big guy who doesn’t know from books and doesn’t care about you. These guys care!
And nobody gives better recommendations than a bookseller.
SubText Bookstore in St. Paul has begun a “surprise me” option. Go online, give them a price point and a genre, say a few words about a book you loved (or didn’t love), and they will pick something out and mail it to you.
I tested this the other day — I read books for a living, you know, and I was certain they’d send me something I’d already read. But they nailed it. I was impressed.
They have a similar option for gifts — tell them a little about the recipient and they’ll pick out a couple of books.
Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis is also doing customized book boxes. “Customers call or e-mail. They determine how much they want to spend, give us a little (or a lot) of guidance — favorite authors, subgenres, interests,” said owner Meg King-Abraham.
The result can be a list of recommendations, or, for the bold and daring, a surprise order.
Next Chapter Books in St. Paul is putting its recommendations online — “Ask a Bookseller” is an occasional Zoom event (next one: May 28, 4 p.m.) featuring booksellers answering your questions and making recommendations.
Eat My Words, which sells used books in Minneapolis, will also recommend titles.
Check out your neighborhood bookstore — I bet they are offering similar services.
Many, like Magers & Quinn and Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, offer curbside (or alleyside) pickup — place an order online and pick it up outside the store. Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., includes free gifts with all curbside pickups.
Some booksellers will drop off the books at your house. Others offer free media mail shipping.
The folks at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis are in the process of installing a walk-up window, so you can place your order online, pay for it, and then stop by for no-contact pickup. As easy as getting a Dairy Queen Blizzard. (And better for you.)
Geek Love Cafe, right next door to Moon Palace, has its own window where you can pick up beer, wine, and the fixings for pizza.
Some stores are hosting virtual events — Once Upon a Crime will host a video chat with William Kent Krueger at 7 p.m. May 26. The newly reopened Boneshaker Books is hosting online book clubs. Birchbark Books’ website includes recommendations from dogs. Not sure it gets any better than that.
The point is, you’ve got all these bookish people locked up in stores filled with books, eager to get great reading into your hands. Why not give them a chance?
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.