Novel Idea Bookstore
118 N 14th St
(The following interview with Cinnamon Dokken was conducted via email, August )
Q. Why open a bookstore and, more importantly, why open a used bookstore?
A. There’s a romantic image of what it means to be a bookseller — the misty vision of Audrey Hepburn sipping a latte and having erudite conversation while classical music softly plays in the background. Sometimes, that’s exactly what it’s like. Sometimes, it’s less intellectual and more physical – unloading the 50th box of books purchased on a buying trip while Pat Benatar sings "Hit Me
With Your Best Shot" in the background. (Classical music just doesn’t cut it when it comes to unloading the truck.)
Either way, being surrounded by books is a good gig. I learn a lot every day. Having a "used" bookstore rather than a "new" bookstore increases the level of unpredictability and surprise, which I like. You truly never know what you’ll find. We carry a variety of fiction and non-fiction books that range from mass-market paperbacks to books signed by Harry Truman. When a customer brings in a box of books to sell, it can be like opening a birthday present.
Being around the people that gravitate to bookstores is another huge benefit. The range of books attracts a range of people — and they’re excited about whatever subject they’re into. Superstring theory doesn’t float my boat but I can get a vicarious thrill out of being around somebody who’s passionate about it. I’m constantly reminded that the world offers endless possibilities. I like that.
2. Why is it important to support independent bookstores?
By supporting independent bookstores, you are making an investment in the kind of world you want to create.
Your money will go to the people who remember your name and care about YOU. It will go to support the kind of access to information you value. It will provide a broader tax base for your community, which will help fund your parks and schools. Some of your money will be donated to charitable organizations. Some of your money will be spent on an advertising budget that favors community radio, education and the arts. Your money will insure that there is a warm, inviting place where you can discover things you never knew existed.
And, of course, some of your money will no doubt be spent on food for the resident bookstore pet, who is a friend to everyone. Years ago, I had a conversation with my accountant about the money we spend on our cat, Silas. "We love him," I said. Case closed.
3. What is one of your favorite sleeper books? For instance, you were surprised about the subject matter and writing in Stephen King’s The Green Mile, are there any other books that took your breath away with the unexpected?
Occasionally, I’ve found myself in an airport without a book – something that’s a little embarrassing, considering my job. If no real bookstore is available, I cruise the convenience alcoves. Heading past the trail mix and ibuprofen, cursing myself for not bringing the extra book I could have shoved into my carry-on, I stand in front of the wall of shiny mass market paperbacks about love and murder. Usually, I prefer murder. (Stop analyzing.)
Anyway, one time I picked up Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, a book I had resisted due to its overwhelming popularity. I really enjoyed it. It was well written, entertaining and it forced the characters to handle the philosophical issues that immortality would present. Not exactly the silly, blood-sucking novel I had expected. Surprise!
Larry Watson’s novel, Montana 1948, is a fantastic "sleeper". That book flew under my radar for a couple of years until I picked up a copy because a friend liked it. Good God! Here was a great book that had been languishing in our literature section. Now I recommend it to everyone who will give me the time of day. Everyone. That includes you, O gentle reader.
4. Any advice to readers, writers, or anything else you want to say?
I see people who are reluctant to pick up the classics because they don’t want to feel like they’re in school. Many convince themselves to give the classics a try because they feel they “should.” Then they come in the next week enthusiastically extolling the virtues of Faulkner or Austen or Bronte. Then, there’s no stopping them. They’re all over Dickens and Fitzgerald. Before you know it, they’re asking for Homer. Their lives have changed. They weep tears of joy and thank me for owning such a glorious haven of literature. Well, okay. I made up that last part.
I also hear lots of educated people apologizing for reading genre fiction. There’s nothing wrong with reading what you like. Free to be you and me, and all that. Enjoy. A good book is a good book is a good book. Now, go get ’em.
The cool thing about going to a bookstore is that you can buy anything you want and take it home and read it. You won’t be judged by anyone on my side of the counter. We’ll just be happy to see you. Thanks for supporting your local, independent used bookstore!