This blog, published free of charge since September 2007, is a way for me to stay in touch with seasonal bookstore visitors from afar and with all customers and friends when I am closed for my annual "seasonal retirement" in the winter. Thank you so much for following Books in Northport and for supporting Dog Ears Books.
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Thursday, May 8, 2014
Who Decides Who “Belongs”?
Summer bookstore flowers on Waukazoo Street
Lots of bookstores have book
clubs. Mine doesn’t. Over the years I’ve been asked if Dog Ears Books had a
book club, received suggestions about what kind of book club various people
might enjoy, and have considered the possibility from many angles. Repeatedly.
Over and over (to be redundant, as “repeatedly” already said “over and over,”
So why don’t I have a bookstore book club?
Wouldn’t it be a good idea?
Wouldn’t it (1) give people encouragement to gather here, (2) to buy books from
me, and (3) wouldn’t it add to the culture of our little village?
There are the pesky
suspicions that probably arise in some minds when I mention our “intrepid Ulysses band,” the small group that first came together to
read James Joyce and has been meeting irregularly ever since--why weren’t other people invited to join? and what about that other
group that met for a few years before the five women the group comprised
couldn’t even manage to find five times a year when their schedules were
compatible? what kind of exclusive little clique was that?--so let me get the suspicions out
of the way first. The Ulysses group and the erstwhile five-woman group were not my book clubs, nor were they bookstore book clubs. I
didn’t start either one of them, and neither one met at the bookstore. Also,
after a while, as those in book clubs or reading groups know from experience, a
bonding among members can make it difficult to enlarge the circle. A shared
history has grown up among group members. Besides, the group that’s still going
meets at the same home every time, and our Fearless Leader and his wife feel
that we are pretty much at capacity now for seating.
For a while, I tried to
keep up with three groups, these two small ones and the larger, drop-ins
welcome group at the township library. Once, during the library’s remodeling,
the library group met at Dog Ears Books, but that only happened one time, and
it happened before the new wall went up between Dog Ears Books and Red Mullein,
making it more challenging to accommodate a large number of chairs. But, as I
say, the smallest group fell apart, and I haven’t kept up with the library
Part of the explanation for
the last sentence of the paragraph above is the same as the explanation for why
there’s no Dog Ears Books book club. I can’t do everything. I have been blessed
beyond my just deserts to have Bookstore Bruce as a regular part-time volunteer
for well over a decade (without him I would never have a day off), but, like
me, he’s getting older, too, and I can’t ask him to take on more than he
already shoulders. Other bookstores have paid staff. Libraries have paid staff,
plus whole armies of volunteers. Dog Ears Books is basically a one-person
This morning can serve as an
example. After bank and post office errands and the tacking up of a few posters
around town, back at the bookstore, among the storm of e-mail messages (I
hadn’t checked in since early the day before) were inquiries from an author
about when her book review would appear in a local newspaper; from a book
publicist asking if I would write a review of a book sent to me last week; from
authors contacted by the publicist about reviewing, wondering who she was; from
someone in a local book club urging me to have an author event for a writer who
had recently been the guest of their group; from a couple more people wanting
to reserve copies of Ken Scott’s ICE CAVES book (order e-mails are always
welcome!); and a whole flurry from the Ulysses group people, trying to figure out when we can meet
next and what we should try to read and discuss. And that was just e-mail.
There is also the telephone, the UPS delivery, and – bless their hearts! – customers in the bookstore! You are the best, folks: you’re why I’m here, and you keep me in
Ordering new books, looking
at collections to buy, in-store sales, stocking shelves, inventory management,
shipping orders, publicity, advertising, bookkeeping, correspondence – I mean,
not to make this “all about me” but those jobs are me, me, me, me, me, me, me,
me, me. In-store events? Me again. Book clubs, like other in-store gatherings,
don’t happen by themselves. They need to be planned. They need to be organized.
Word about them needs to get out. Preparations need to be made. As much fun as
it all is, there’s a lot of work involved. That’s not a contradiction: parties
are fun, too, but it’s a lot of work to get one together.
One summer someone thought it
would be fun if people simply came and brought books they’d been reading and
shared them with others, rather than having everyone read the same book. I
think that would be great for a group of friends to do, but a bookstore book
club needs to be selling books to members if it’s going to function as part of
the business, i.e., to keep the bookstore alive.
When someone says to me, “I’d
love to be in a book group,” I say, “Why not start one?” And now I'll say that if anyone would like
to start one and have it meet regularly here, all I’d ask is that members order
their books through my bookstore. Organizing, choosing books, scheduling meetings,
refreshments – all that and whatever else people would want included would have
to be the responsibility of the person starting the group, but there’s no
reason why it can’t happen.
I’m here. I’ll be here all
summer. And I do try to make everyone who comes in the door feel welcome. You are all my friends, old and new.