Thursday, June 08, 2006


The fine art of naming a bookshop

I have a good friend who says he doesn't trust used or antiquarian booksellers who don't use their own names as the names of their businesses (he's a bookseller himself). He was being cantankerous, as is his wont, because in actuality we both know all kinds of respectable dealers who walk under other names printed on their shop shingles as they go to work. I'm not a fan of the pseudo-quaint Ye Olde Bookshoppe-style name, and I do have a few favorites that I think are much better than that:

Twice-Sold Tales, in Farmington, Maine. Great shop name, combining literate recycling imagery and an appropriately bookish pun on the Nathaniel Hawthorne title.

Stone Soup Books, in Camden Maine. Two rooms crammed floor to ceiling with books. Referencing the old folk tale about starting with nothing, but when everyone in the community adds one thing each, a soup is created that feeds all. A great metaphor for a local bookshop.

Commonwealth Books, Boston, Massachusetts. Massachusetts is of course a commonwealth itself, but again I love the metaphor the compound word sets up, common-wealth: what is valued in a community, the life of the mind that is shared and available to all.

Acres of Books, Long Beach, California. I hope to visit someday. A million books, in an art deco warehouse. Ray Bradbury shops there - click the link for his article "I Sing the Bookstore Eclectic." A family-owned business since 1934. The name says it all, doesn't it? Acres. Of. Books. Shiver.

And perhaps my favorite of all time:

The American Dust Company, New York. No link, because I can't find any information online about these folks, except for this amusing catalogue review. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Who am I missing? From of the thousands of used bookshops around the globe, what are your favorite names, dear readers? I'm looking for a combination of cleverness and an obvious touch of bibliomania on the part of the proprietor.

Have to admit that I find the Knot Knew Books sort of funny, although I don't really like "cutesy/oldesy" spellings.

There's also Avid Books, Half-way Down the Stairs, Harbor Muse, Read It Again, Bookery, After Words, Dawntreader, Crazy Wisdom, Between the Covers, and Way Station.
I like Bearly Read in Sudbury, MA and Shakespeare's Books in Madison.

I love Moe's in Berkeley because it sounds more like a bar than bookstore. And book lovers do get very drunk wandering the four floors of fabulous books.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so I choose the mundance name of geographical place in order to release the secent this rose deserves. I'v lived in LA and New York, hung out in San Francisco, Seattle, and various cities in New England, but now live in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, where one of the best used bookshops exists in a small valley on the Kootenai River, amongst forests,lakes and mountains where grizzlies and wolves live in a troubled human world. The bookshop is called Bonners Books and the owner, John, has an eclectic collection of mostly "better" fiction, but also of pacific northwest books, biography, crafts, religion, travel, childrens' books and other various, sometimes idiosyncratic, choices. Of course he will order a new book for his customers, and he has a new book section that suggests something about his favorites, but it is the wonderful assortment of used books, from ex-library to the rare first edition, that makes the store such a wonderful and worthwhile place to visit. No website - you have to travel close to the Canadian border to get there, but I know from experience that you will leave with something. I choose to remain anonymous because others in our county will be furious that I even mentioned this bookstore's name on the internet, but what's in a name?
One of my local favorites is Upper Case Books, "a dusted collection of previously owned books." Awhile back they moved from rather cozy quarters to what had been an vintage automobile salon -- not as quaint but the aisles are more generous. I've found some good booksellers labels here!
Good names, everyone - I love Knot Knew, good for a chuckle, and Upper Case (all sorts of literary and letterpress associations in that one). Thanks to everyone for commenting, thus making this blog interactive - it keeps me well-fed (word-wise) and amused, two of my favorite states to be in. I am thinking right now "How can I get to Bonners Books in Idaho - how can I get to Moe's - how can I get to Madison." I see I must plan a book-buying road trip of epic proportions, and blog about it from the trail.
The is The Booklegger in Huntsville al.
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