Guest-The Country Bookseller!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the daffodils are in bloom and the blackflies have yet to appear!

I am absolutely delighted to welcome Karen and Autumn from the Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro, NH to the Wickeds today! Since stopping the shop in person right now is not a possibility, I thought we would enjoy a virtual visit instead. They have been kind enough to host me at the bookstore many times over the years and have always gone out of their way to advertise the events, have plenty of books on hand and to make me feel at home. Welcome ladies!

Jessie:   For a lot of book lovers owning a bookstore seems like a dream come true. That said, I expect there is a huge amount of work involved! What does a typical week for an independent bookseller involve?

CB: In our store, we wear all the hats. We often get asked the question, “Do you get to read while you’re at work?” The truth is, we could never find the time! When we aren’t helping readers find the perfect book, we are making coffee, receiving orders, cleaning, straightening and alphabetizing books on the shelves, building displays, and looking for new books to add to our shelves. We meet with sales representatives from some of the major publishers to go over lists of new books for each season so that every title that arrives in the store is hand-selected. 


Jessie:    Even though it isn’t all fun and games, I am sure you would not keep rising to the challenge if you didn’t love it. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

CB:It is always rewarding to put books into the hands of young readers. Whether we help a “non-reader” discover the love of words or keep adding to the stacks of a voracious reader, we love spreading the love of reading to the younger generations. One of the many perks of being in business for twenty-six years is that we get to see those kids grow up and not only keep reading, but then pass that love on to their kids as well.


Jessie:   You are obviously book lovers. What are your favorite 2-3 genres? Which are the most popular with your patrons?

CB:For Autumn, it is easier to pick a few genres she doesn’t like, rather than the ones she does. She will read almost anything, but tends to stay away from Science Fiction and Fantasy. That’s not to say one or two books from those genres haven’t found their way on to her bookshelf. 


Karen prefers literary fiction, magical realism, and anything “spiritual.”
As far as our patrons go, I think we have a pretty eclectic mix there too. It also depends on the season what our folks are reading. I think we see more history books and literary fiction fly out of the store in the winter months and lighter reads, romance or adventure, in the summer months.


Jessie:      Bookstores always seem to me to be a vital and significantly contributing member of their communities. In fact, they seem to build community just by their very existence to a surprising degree. Which sorts of ways has your shop been involved in your community over the years?


CB: Not only do bookstores everywhere build community, but for us we can certainly say our community builds us. We wouldn’t survive in a small tourist town with the threat of Amazon looming if we didn’t have an extremely supportive community. 
We are lucky to have several schools in the area who choose to shop with us and we have always offered discounts to not only schools, but teachers and homeschoolers as well. We love working with our local libraries to bring authors to the area. Whether it’s a big event at a local venue, or an intimate gathering in a library meeting room, it gives us the opportunity to support authors and give back to another important institution in our community.

Our favorite way of being involved in the community is existing as a safe and comfortable place for all. Especially in these trying times, many have realized or reaffirmed their opinions that bookstores are gathering places. Now that we’ve had to close our doors to the public, we are trying to remain that integral part of the community. We’d like to think we’ve always gone above and beyond, but especially now we hope that our familiar faces feel how important they are to us. Whether it’s curating personalized lists of recommendations, keeping our “cookie monsters” fed, or just answering the phone to chat with folks stuck at home alone, we are still our community’s gathering place and we hope it still feels like home.


Jessie:    With all the upheaval in the world right now it is even more of a pleasure, and a sanity-saver, to get lost in a good book. Any recommendations for us?

CB: Autumn tends to be the pessimist and Karen the optimist. 

So, if you are looking for somewhat of a downer to show that things could be worse, here are a few good ones:
The Return by Rachel Harrison (A story of friendship but with an edge of your seat, lights on all night, horrific twist.)
An Imperfect Union by Steve Inskeep (Proving history repeats itself and that the country was just as divided, if not more, over one hundred years ago.)
Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston (Definitely puts things into perspective and will give the reader some good knowledge on how viruses operate, why this is not the end of the world, and how much the folks on the front lines of outbreaks sacrifice.)

If you are looking for something to lift your spirits or take you away, here is what Karen recommends:
The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander (Set in medieval China, this is a tale of sisterhood above all else.)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (A family saga exploring the bond of siblings and chock-full of beautiful prose.)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (A gothic novel about a library of rare books that is sure to excite anyone who has ever sought solace in the written word.)
It’s also a great time to pick up those classics that you’ve been meaning to read.

Jessie:     Finally, our readers love their independent booksellers. How can we best support them?

CB: For those who are in a position to, keep shopping with us! We are here offering curbside pick-up and delivery and many of our bookselling friends are too. Check to see if your local bookshop is open before trying Amazon. Even if your local store is not operating, you can check indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder to find another store close to you. Many of us are shipping orders all over the country right now. 
If your shelves are fully stocked, but you still want to help, buy gift certificates. Ours never expire and you can use it for a celebratory shopping spree when we are able to open the doors.

 
A couple of great companies we partner with are doing so much to help us out as well. Audiobooks can be purchased through libro.fm/thecountrybookseller and right now if you sign up with the code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, we will get 100% of the profits and you get two free audiobooks. Bookshop.org is another great option if you need a book and can’t wait until we are in the shop to take your order. We have a page you can visit at bookshop.org/shop/thecountrybookseller which has lists we’ve curated. You can also search for specific books if you can’t find what you want on our lists. We receive a portion of the sales for any books you purchase through our page.

Another way to show your support is through saveindiebookstores.com . There, you can make a donation that will help the bookstores who need it most. You’ll be in good company with some huge supporters of independent bookstores like: James Patterson, Reese’s Book Club, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, and the American Booksellers Association.
Most importantly, remember us. If you aren’t able to support us now, just remember that we intend to be here when this is all over. As soon as the doors are open again, we hope to see all our old friends and our new ones too!

Readers, do you have a favorite indelendent bookstore? Share their name here! Have you ever worked in a bookstore or just wished you could? Do you have a book recommendation for all of us?
See More from Jessie Crockett

38 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, and thanks for including all of our books! I loved visiting last fall and hope I can get up there again once the world reopens.

    Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport, MA is my local indy. The booksellers there also make the store a big part of the community and they are wonderful.

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    1. Fingers crossed, Edith that everything can safely reopen soon! I have enjoyed visits to Jabberwocky too! And usually, when I have been there it has been for events with you!

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  2. My bookstore is Starr Books in Douglassville, PA (which sounds a lot like Starbucks when you say it fast…not sure if that was intentional or not). They mainly have used books but they also have a small selection of new books. I’m in there so often that everyone knows me and I get first dibs on new cozies. When I’m done with a book (and my mom has already borrowed and read it), I can take in there for credit towards the purchase of new or used books.If there is anything that I want that she didn’t order, I give her a call or send her an email and I usually have the new book in a week. Every year for my birthday and Christmas my husband buys me gift cards from there.

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  3. The Country Bookseller is my local bookstore, and I’m so excited to see them featured on The Wickeds. Karen, Autumn, and Bruce are fantastic! They are knowledgeable and helpful, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else to shop! They’ve also hosted me through the years, and when I got my first book contract, Karen did the happy dance with me. 🙂

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    1. How lovely to hear from someone else who loves this wonderful bookshop and the people who make it such a delightful place! Thanks for sharing your Country Bookseller story!

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  4. I love my indie, Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. They are wonderful and are even doing home delivery within a limited radius right now (fortunately, I fall in that radius).

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  5. Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA is a wonderful small indie. They have a full range of books, and they have loads of games and have/had game nights on a regular basis. Great place for teenagers to gather. Aaron’s is very active in the community and big on having book signings. We are so lucky to have them!

    Another place I haven’t been to in a while, which I really love, is the Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto. All mysteries all the time! Wonderful owners with a great monthly newsletter. Used to go fairly often we lived only 4 hours away. Now, it’s 10! We had planned on going there this past weekend, but, you know….

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  6. My indie is Haslam’s Book Store in downtown St. Petersburg, FL–where they’ve been since 1933! I had the great good fortune to work in a wonderful little bookstore in Salem MA from my freshman year at Salem High School through my freshman year at B.U. It was the Olde Salem Bookshop on Essex Street and was probably a major life-altering experience for me..

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  7. This was a really interesting blog to read this morning.

    As for me, I don’t get to go to an independent bookstore all that often. It’s a matter of convenience to me more than anything else. The closest store to me is a Barnes and Noble. It’s 20-25 minutes away. The closest independent store is 45 minutes (or more during the hell that is summer tourist season) away.

    There used to be a store in the same area as the B&N called Baker Books that I loved to go to, particularly for a signing or two. But they’ve been gone for a long time.

    However, the independent bookstore that I patronize the most is Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, MA. Ask Edith, she was going to be doing a signing there just yesterday if the world hadn’t decided to mess with my plans. I’ve gone to a bunch of signings that they hosted, both on premises and at the Sandwich Library. Hank Phillippi Ryan, Joanna Schaffhausen, Peter Colt and Kris Frieswick to name a few. The store is fun to check out when I go there for a signing and I always try to get a book there besides the one I’m buying from the signings. I just ordered the Jack Carr thriller Savage Son from them last week to show my support for them during their enforced closure and I plan to order another book from them next week when that one is released.

    I have had three “work” desires for a long time because I thought it would be cool when I was growing up. Time and reality have robbed the “romanticism” from the desire to work at a record store, comic book store and a book store though. I did get to work at a comic shop on Free Comic Book Day for a few years. I got paid in free lunch and comics but I was still “working”. No one can hype up a comic like me!

    I also worked a shift covering my friend’s record shop which was great and something I’d do again if asked.

    I have never had the opportunity to work at a bookstore and I don’t think I’d want to anymore. I’ve seen how it is to work at a B&N and while I adore a number of the employees at the one I go to (including the one I cheekily refer to as “My Elven Queen”, an inside joke between her and I), I would never survive my first shift if I got a job there.

    Part of the problem is that I’m not the kind of people person that works great in a retail setting. I’m a people person if it is on my terms. That’s the reverse of what a retail job requires so I know it won’t ever happen.

    I’m really hoping that we can get back to the book stores being open and book signings being scheduled because I enjoy the chance to meet the people whose work has come to be a huge part of my life.

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    1. I am sure all the Wickeds are looking​ forward to in-person events just as much as you are in attending them and stores would be in being able to host them! Fingers crossed that it won’t be long now!

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  8. My favorite local indie bookstore was called Books or Books, but sadly they closed. The owner had plans to reopen at some point if she could find a new location. Not sure if that has changed given the current situation. One thing I like about the small stores is how helpful and supportive of local authors they are. I agree that they’re wonderful for community!

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  9. So in one of those strange coincidences I’m just now reading a book that I picked up at Country Booksellers when we were there last fall! What a lovely bookstore with such a warm and wonderful staff. I’m so lucky to live in an area with great independent bookstores — One More Page Books in Arlington, Scrawl Books in Reston, Blue Iguana in Frederick, MD, Hooray for Books in Alexandria, East City Books in DC, and Fountain Books in Richmond.

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  10. Thanks for a great tribute to independent bookstores! I love bookstores and tend to get lost inside for a while when I can. The stacks in my living room are evidence of that. I am also in total agreement with Kristen Schadler on Starr Books in Douglassville PA. My son lives in Douglassville so every visit to him starts with a visit to the Starr Books. There is also a lovely store in Kennett Square PA called Book Shoppe. This one also sells used books in awesome condition and the sales benefit Senior Citizens.

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  11. Another very quick comment-I did a ride down Rte 7 in Vermont a few years ago and I was amazed at how many towns had independent bookstores! Accolades to all the independents!

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  12. I’ve had a few favorite independent bookstores over the years, but they’ve sadly closed now for various reasons, including the owners deciding to retire (which is usually what it is). We used to have several mystery oriented bookstores in LA county, and now we have none. The closest is the next county sound, an hour and a half drive from me, so I don’t go there except once every few years.

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  13. It’s so wonderful to have Autumn and Karen with us today. I’ve worked with the Country Bookseller on two events and both have been fantastic. Portland, Maine is blessed with several independent bookstores. My go-to is Print: A Bookstore which is right around the corner from me. (Which doesn’t matter so much right now when they have to ship the books.) In Key West my local is Books & Books, where author Judy Blume can be found working almost everyday. (At least up until, you know.)

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  14. Wherever we go, whether it’s a day trip of longer, the first place we seek out is the local independent bookstore, and we always come out with a bagful of books. Honestly, I could start my own bookstore. My favorite indie bookstore, and the one I patronize most often is Gibson’s in Concord NH. We have stepped up our buying during our COVID quarantine. I even ordered the books I’ll be using to teach my summer literature class at Manchester Community College . BTW, Jessie, I’ve included Drizzled to Death as our wrap-up book.

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  15. I loved the interview and I too love a good independent bookstore. Because they care about their customer.

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  16. A Freethinker’s Corner books&more in Dover, NH is a fairly new store (opened Aug, 2018) and although small, has a wonderfully curated selection of books. The owner is very friendly and helpful.

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  17. My favorite independent bookstore is Vintage Books in Vancouver, WA. They have a terrific selection of mystery books and two delightful bookstore cats, Maisie and Dickens. My husband and I go there about once a month. We can’t wait for them to reopen, whenever that may be.

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  18. Our local independent bookstore is Lark and Owl and our public library has an in-house bookstore called Second Hand Prose. The library puts all the culled books there and folks donate books, too. All the money raised goes back to the library which is very helpful to the library’s budget. The Second Hand Prose is staffed by volunteers…really a wonderful place to browse and buy used books. I read that there is a Book Industry Charitable Foundation BINC for independent bookstores that will help with medical expenses for staff and personal household expenses, too. I have not checked into it, but the site is info@bincfoundation.org.

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