Monday, May 10, 2010

The Great American Book Tour: Week 8, Installment 3

Chicago has the damndest system of “tolling,” as they are pleased to call it, in the universe. Like college calculus, it’s simple enough if you understand it. I didn’t. I ran half a dozen or so toll booths before I even figured out what they were. Good job, Mr. Vermonter.

Roberta Rubin, owner of the Bookstall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, on the northeast side of Chicago, has championed books, authors, and independent readers for 28 years. Decades ago, Roberta was one of the first booksellers to come up with the idea of using bookclubs as a way for indie stores to survive, and lectured widely on the subject. That evening the terrific staff of Anderson’s, over in Naperville, on the southwest edge of the Windy City, turned out a big audience (as usual) to hear the born liar from the Green Mountain State hold forth about “Transforming History into Fiction,” aka lying for a living.

Driving into Holland, MI, the next afternoon I was delighted to discover that I’d hit the tulip capital of the United States at peak blossoming time. I took a quick turn around the gardens at Windmill Island (beautiful) but was more impressed by the miles of tulip-lined city streets and downtown parks and more impressed still by Michelle Lonergan’s bookstore, the Tree House. Michelle grew up in South Jersey in a house with few books, but her dad built her a tree house in the back yard where she devoured books borrowed from friends and the local library. By the time she was eight, she wanted, someday, to own a bookstore.

Michelle, who describes herself as a “cynical optimist,” cited a recent Publishers Weekly article on the alarming decrease in the sales of hardcover books. Even so, she told me that when she “puts the key in the doorknob of the Tree House every morning and smells the books inside,” she knows that, come what may, this is where she belongs.

Now there, my bibliophile friends, is a great bookseller.

No comments: