Friday, December 30, 2016

Bookstore Quest 2016

Authors, authors, everywhere!

This Christmas I gave myself a splendid gift - a Bookstore Quest.

I was in North Carolina with family the weekend before Christmas and had long wanted to peek into the many bookstores in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area.  A quick count showed almost 50 bookstores in the area that is home to the universities of Duke, North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State. 

A little guidance was needed.

Well, due to the alignment of the stars and the generosity of author James Patterson, I was able to map out my route. 

How did Mr. Patterson figure into my quest? He gave $250,000 in holiday bonus grants this year to 149 employees of independent bookstores. I came across the list of winners and four employees from three bookstores in the vicinity were on it. I thought it was the perfect criterion for my expedition.

First stop was Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. It sits in a corner space of an upscale shopping center. The store actually boasted two grantees but neither was working the day of my visit. I browsed the regional author section and came upon You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning. This collection of syndicated newspaper columns by Celia Rivenbark who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina seemed to be a cross between Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck. I decided it would be the perfect gift for a friend. I hope these essays prove to be as humorous - and snarky, we love snarky - as the bookseller Samantha assured me they were.

The image at the top of the page is the photo gallery of authors displayed in the women's restroom at Quail Ridge Books. 

Next stop was Fearrington Village just south of Durham in Pittsboro. This is a planned community of shops, homes, an inn (very pricey), restaurants, and my destination: McIntyre's Books. 

I met Peter Mock who was the store's grant recipient. When I asked him to recommend a book of essays, he enthusiastically led me to The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs and I handed him my credit card. 

We spent a lot of time in the mystery book room which is Peter's pride and joy. Peter is book buyer and mystery guru and has been with the store 22 years. When he first started with the shop, he said, mysteries took up two shelving areas. Now they have a room of their own - which is as it should be. I loved it.

Peter Mock
McIntyre's Books

By then it was late and raining and I returned to the hotel for the night. Next morning, I was on the road to Chapel Hill and Flyleaf Books. With its orange walls and location in a small shopping center, it was the funkiest of the three. It sold both used and new books. 

Here's the story from Flyleaf:  At the first two stores on my quest, I had seen a book on display on the new quality paperback tables. It looked like my cup of tea and I had in mind that I would buy it from Flyleaf Books as I had already bought a book from each of the other stores. I wanted to spread the wealth. 

I looked on all the display tables but didn't see it. I approached the desk and tentatively said, "I am your nightmare customer. I don't know the name of the book or the author, but the cover is blue and it is a book of stories about a small English village in the 1930s. It's new. Can you help?" 

A search on the computer came up with title and author (Notwithstanding by Louis de Berniers). It showed one copy in the store located on display table number eight. We looked there. No luck. We looked on the shelves. No luck. I was determined and went back to Table Eight thinking maybe it had gotten mixed in with other 'blue books.' 

Well, just to prove that once a bookseller always a bookseller, I found it. Victory! Sure enough, it had another book stacked on top of it. I was so proud and the employees who had been helping me gathered round to touch the hem of my coat. Well, not really, but they were impressed at my diligence in sniffing out its location.

I chatted with manager Lane Jacobson and congratulated him on his grant. Asked what he was going to do with the money, he said, "I donated some and used some to pay off student debt." (I mistakenly heard 'student death' which we agreed was a more fitting description.)

Lane has been with Flyleaf Books for four years. One of his favorite authors is David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and he just finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. On his TBR list are City of Thieves by David Benioff and Moonglow by Michael Chabon. 

I ended up buying two used books and the 'blue book'.

Lane Jacobson
Flyleaf Books

Thus my quest came to an end. It was quite satisfying and as I had all the books I purchased gift wrapped, I brought home not only a delightful holiday memory but a few goodies for under my tree as well.

I know this is a longer letter than usual, but one can't possibly cut short the story of a quest. 

Wishing you a safe and prosperous 2017.
Read On!


  1. I'm always delighted when a favorite book is mentioned in someone else's blog: I keep a copy of Animal Dialogs in my guest room to encourage the occasional guest to enjoy the essays.
    What a wonderful trip! I must do something like that one of these days.
    Wishing you a happy, healthy, and fun 2017!

    1. Joan, I am glad to learn that 'The Animal Dialogues' is one of your favorites. High praise, indeed. I had not heard of Craig Childs but am always happy to find a new author who writes about the natural world.

      I am grateful for our many conversations about books...and other things, too...and hope we have many more in 2017.

  2. What a delightful quest. I wish I had been with you! I love searching out fun bookshops when I travel. I like that you bought a book at each shop, too.

    I've read a couple of Celia Rivenbark's books, and they are a lot of fun. I think you'll enjoy her. The other purchases are new to me.

    Hope you have a safe and happy New Year's Eve! Looking forward to many more bookish conversations in 2017.

    1. Kathy, I would have loved to have had you as a travelling companion! I had not heard of Celia Rivenbark so am happy to have you put in a good word for her. I hope my friend likes the book. She lives across the river in Indiana so I consider her a Yankee and am always trying to give her a little taste of The South!

      I look forward to your comments and hope our conversations will continue in 2017. Keep Reading and Keep Arting On!

  3. I love reading this, Belle; a quest after my own heart.
    I wish you the happiest and healthiest of New Years and I thank you for all your informative, interesting, book loving posts.

    1. Penny, my pocketbook and my bookshelves are happy that I held my quest down to three stores. I think I showed great restraint, don't you.

      Wishing you and your family there on the cutoff the very best in 2017. And I look forward to our continued conversations this coming year.

  4. I heard Belle give this travelogue in person. Her animation brought an added sense of presence to her tale. I'd not heard of the Patterson Award, and since our conversation, I learned that two associates at Carmichael's in Louisville have received the award. Belle, you need to write a follow-up column, perhaps paraphrase Thoreau: "I have traveled extensively in Louisville." I'd be happy to go with you on the quest, but we would have to take separate cars.

    1. Dapylil, thanks for your comment and the news of the local holiday bonus winners. A great idea.

      Separate cars it is.