Feature Friday: The Bookstore Strikes Back!

“You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.”

Photo credit Heidi Ross, from www.theatlantic.com

Photo credit Heidi Ross, from www.theatlantic.com

That is, Ann Patchett has a story to tell. Ann Patchett is of course the award-winning and bestselling author of such books as Bel Canto, Patron Saint of Liars, The Magician’s Assistant, and, most recently, State of Wonder.  Patchett was the winner of the 2012-2013 WNBA Award, an award that recognized both her writing and her work as the co-owner of the independent bookstore Parnassus Books.  When Nashville lost both of its bookstores, Patchett stepped in along with Karen Hayes and Mary Grey James to open a new independent bookstore in town.

The story of how Patchett came to open the store, and its subsequent successes, is a story that flies in the face of what many believe possible in the book business.  This is precisely why Patchett tells it—in an article in The Atlantic this December entitled “The Bookstore Strikes Back.”  The following is an excerpt from this must-read article.

When I look back on all this now, I’m dizzied by the blitheness that stood in place of any sort of business sense, like the grand gesture of walking over to the roulette table and betting it all on a single number. Anyone I mentioned this plan to was quick to remind me that books were dead, that in two years—I have no idea where “two years” came from, but that number was consistently thrown at me—books would no longer exist, much less bookstores, and that I might as well be selling eight-track tapes and typewriters. But somehow all the nay-saying never registered in my brain. I could see our plan working as clearly as I could see myself standing beside my sister in Mills. I was a writer, after all, and my books sold pretty well. I spoke to crowds of enthusiastic readers all over the country, and those readers gave me confidence. More than that, I was partnered with Karen Hayes, who wore the steely determination of a woman who could clear a field and plant it herself, and with Mary Grey, my dear friend, who had opened a bookstore before. Moreover, Nashville’s two giant, departed bookstores had been profitable every month. I saw the roulette ball bouncing up again and again until finally coming to rest on the number I had chosen.”

To read the full article, visit The Atlantic’s website here!

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