Like most people, I haven’t gotten out much over the past 18 months. Most of the things I’ve needed or wanted to buy I’ve purchased online. At first, this was because the stores where we live were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even after they reopened it was often difficult to find what I was looking for.
Last weekend, my husband and I hiked Mount Equinox in Manchester, Vermont. While we were in town we visited the Northshire Bookstore. It had been a long time since I’d been in an actual bookstore, especially a well stocked and curated independent one. There are few brick and mortar bookstores around these days. Even big chains like Barnes & Noble have closed many of their shops.
Northshire is an amazing place. They have thousands of books on dozens of subjects, not to mention novels, poetry, biographies, short story collections, memoirs, coffee table books, travel guides, art and photography books, children’s picture books, rare first editions, and cookbooks. We ended up being in there for couple of hours.
As I was wandering around the store, I remembered why I love bookstores so much: Just being there, around people who also enjoy reading and learning, gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Although the other customers and the store employees were strangers, we all had something essential in common. It’s the same feeling I’ve always gotten in bookstores, but I’d completely forgotten what it was like.
The other amazing thing was that being in the store actually helped me think. Ever since COVID-19 took hold, my thoughts have been jumbled. I’ve had a lot of trouble concentrating on my writing, and most other things, too. Even reading for more than a few minutes has been challenging at times. At Northshire, though, I found myself actually coming up with ideas for novels, stories, and articles. Subjects I’d never considered reading about piqued my interest.
Maybe it was from being around all those printed words, but I was also reminded that everything we do or make begins as an idea. After nearly two years of feeling like my brain was in low gear, the possibilities suddenly seem endless.
Two independent bookstores have recently opened in the city where we live, Lala Books and Lowell Book Company. I haven’t been to either of them yet, but I think I’m going to visit both of them soon.
Note: My book, The Blue Bottle, is available at Lowell Book Company. I’ll be doing an author signing at the store on Oct. 9. Check back for more details.