In Praise of Independent Book Stores

There’s nothing like times of disconnection to get you thinking about connections.

With worldwide activity essentially on pause, you’d think it’d be optimistic to take advantage of downtime. Typically, in the middle of the day, I’m at my desk working on something. Right now, I could be investing in my own long game, using time productively, filling in this unscheduled time with my self-appointed curriculum geared toward my May book release, or something along those lines.

Instead, I’m sitting outside holding Taylor Brown’s new book, Pride of Eden and thinking about connections. It’s 2:00 in the afternoon in Malibu, California. 75 degrees and the sun is shining through cirrus clouds with the ocean breeze just enough to make sitting outside pleasurable.

I can’t recall the last time I sat outside reading a book in the middle of the day. There’s a shade of guilt involved, but rather than calling it playing hooky, I’ll call it a guilty pleasure. I’ve never met Taylor Brown. I haven’t read the four books he wrote before Pride of Eden came out five days ago, but I got on board because of connections—the first being that this author posted a video of himself on Instagram, standing before pink, flowering shrubbery wearing a black mustache and beard, his baseball cap shading his black-framed glasses, his blue jean vest unbuttoned over his black t-shirt. When I pressed play, his Southern accent sprang like music to my ears, for I’ve been long in the wilds of California, and whenever I hear my own tongue, it sings like a siren call. I next did what any Southern author would do, upon realizing they’re egregiously unfamiliar with one of their own: I went straight to Taylor Brown’s website, unsurprised to learn we have people in common, authors Michael Farris Smith and Patti Callahan Henry to name just two.

The beginning of Pride of Eden’s book description reads: “Retired racehorse jockey and Vietnam veteran Anse Caulfield rescues exotic big cats, elephants, and other creatures for Little Eden, a wildlife sanctuary near the abandoned ruins of a failed development on the Georgia coast. But when Anse’s prized lion escapes, he becomes obsessed with replacing her—even if the means of rescue aren’t exactly legal.” Here’s what grabbed me about the back cover of Pride of Eden: Author Ron Rash writes: “Pride of Eden is a beautifully written, visionary novel of scarred souls seeking redemption not only for themselves but, in their limited way, for us all. Taylor Brown is clearly one of the best American writers of his generation.”

Let’s just say when Ron Rash speaks, I listen.

But back to connections during this disconnected downtime, and here’s where I show my true colors as a transplanted Memphian living in Southern California ( which natives call SoCal, but I digress.) Because the most salient characteristic of all Southerners is loyalty, I picked up the phone and called Novel Book Store in Memphis and ordered Taylor Brown’s book to be shipped to me “out here.” Believe me, if I’m going to buy a book, hometown girl is going to give hometown the business. But then I started thinking about Memphis’s other independent bookstore, Burke’s Books, and that fine figure of an erudite man, Corey Mesler, who not only owns Burke’s Book Store but recently had his novel, Camel’s Bastard Son, published by Cabal Books, which I’m itching to read. Two beats after calling Novel Book Store, I called Burke’s Book Store and ordered Camel’s Bastard Son, with the latest from John Grisham for good measure. Now, I’m thinking the good thing about Southern loyalty is that it’s not divided.

In this time of disconnection, I think it’s only reasonable to honor one’s connections, and the connections I’m thinking of now are those I have with independent bookstores. At the moment, they may not be immediately accessible, but I want to do my part in helping them thrive. Because the first thing I’m going to do once the worst is behind us is head to Memphis. And the second thing I’m going to do is visit both of Memphis’s independent book stores.

13 thoughts on “In Praise of Independent Book Stores

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Claire Fullerton might be in isolation in California, but self-isolation has her contemplating her roots and also support for homegrown ventures. Independent book shops might be shut to walk-ins but many are still shipping books, despite Amazon prioritizing essentials.. So if you are stuck for a print book, follow Claire’s example and buy a book.


  2. I haven’t relaxed enough yet to dive into a book, too busy making sure we have done all we can for family and friends. Mothers Day came and went with no visitors and that hurt!


  3. I have no problem engaging in the guilty pleasure of reading outside in the sun. A perfectly reasonable thing to do in isolation.! The book sounds great. A great shout out to independent booksellers. May they survive the crisis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Darlene. Due to the last few weeks, I’ve become acutely aware of the self-created schedule I’ve been on, made up of all that goes into the marketing of a new release, which is endless. And I have to finish another book by April 6th, which is another story. I’ve been so used to focusing on what should be done, but since this quarantine has happened, I’ve found it hard to stay focused! For some strange reason, I’ve been cleaning my house, as if that’s pressing. I felt this way after the Malibu fires. I think it’s a type of subtle stress or an attempt at control in uncertain times, but the good news is my house is clean 🙂


  4. what a wonderful idea; I think I am going to follow in your footsteps and order a couple of books (the new Harlan Coben book is out, and I was not aware of there being a new Grisham) from my local independent bookstore – I’ve heard they’ve been delivering right to your door!


  5. A beautiful post Claire. I’m finding more and more quite a few writers are reading more than writing lately. The perfect place to be, in a book. Stay safe Claire. ❤


  6. I could stare at that view, mesmerized for hours on end…
    Independent bookstores have a special place in my heart, Claire. I hope they never completely become a thing of the past. Maybe the current crisis, with most businesses being required to shut their doors, will awaken a love for family businesses in people across the country. Whether or not it’s likely, it is a lovely thought to hold.

    Good luck to Taylor — and to you as well with your upcoming release. Hugs on the wing!


  7. Thank you, as always, Teagan. Regarding the view, it is endless. From where we are, I can literally see the curvature of the earth. I’ve grown so used to it ( 20 years) that when I’m anywhere else, I feel landlocked! Different than Memphis, that’s for sure, though Memphis has my heart. And yes, family businesses are the anchors of a community. This goes emphatically for bookstores and libraries. Thank you for your hugs on the wind 🙂


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