One Carries On, Another Closes

If you’re a lover of indie bookstores and live in the tri-state area, then you may have heard of Farley’s Bookstore in New Hope, one of the most well-known shops in the Philly area.. Farley’s is unique not only for its rows and rows of fiction and nonfiction books, but also because it has one of the strongest poetry sections around, one which showcases small publishers and independent presses. The shop owners and workers even take the time to write thoughtful reviews on note cards about some of their favorite books from showcased presses.

I have been fortunate to read at Farley’s three or four times over the years, at least once with each book, as recent as last week for Waiting for the Dead to Speak. Each time I have read there, I’ve encountered an engaged audience not only willing to spend money and support writers, but also talk to you about their favorite poets.

I bring up Farley’s because this week, it got some national attention, this nice article in The Guardian. The shop has been operating since the late 1960s, and this attention is much-deserved.

While Farley’s received this recognition, it was also announced this week that RiverReads Books in Binghamton, NY is closing. A staple of the community since the early 2000s, RiverReads has been a hub for literary activity in the college town. The store will shut its doors by Jan. 31, 2017, according to this announcement published on the website by the owners. The owners write, “Our plan was to offer a gathering place for all things literary and artsy, a place to share ideas and converse with the community.  Well, we did just that … in eight years we held almost 900 events.  Planning those events was important because we wanted to offer something for everyone.  We wanted to highlight the very talented local authors, to give them a chance to share their words with those who might never have known about their books. ”

I’m grateful I had the chance to read at RiverReads a few times over the years, first, back in 2011, a few months after my chapbook Front Man was published, and then for a launch party of Harpur Palate, and lastly, a few weeks ago for Waiting for the Dead to Speak. Like Farley’s, RiverReads always managed to draw an engaged crowd interested in poetry. Beyond that, the store stocked a wide array of books.

Let’s hope that Farley’s can keep doing what it’s been doing for the last several decades. Meanwhile, let’s mourn the closing of RiverReads, a much-needed indie bookstore in a city that is still trying to recover economically.If you have an indie bookstore in your community, please, make sure to support it. These places not only are important for authors, but they are a lifeblood and cultural center point for their communities.

Don’t Forget the Indie Bookstores This Holiday Season

The Atlantic has a wonderful feature story in its current issue about novelist Ann Patchett’s Nashville bookstore, Parnassus Books. The article, written by Patchett, makes a compelling case for indie bookstores and highlights how well her store is doing, so well that she has several orders to fill a day. The bestselling author notes that indie bookstores are a true benefit to the local community, especially since most of them host events and author readings that foster intellectual discussion and allow audience members to interact with writers and have books signed. When asked about the age of the e-reader, Patchett says that most indie bookstores do sell e-books, so it’s possible to shop at such stores and still read a book on your I-Pad.

The article made me miss the bookstores I used to frequent, especially Anthology New and Used Books in Scranton, which used to host several community events, before it closed in 2011. Any writer will tell you that having an indie bookstore in a community only makes for a stronger local literary scene. They provide a homebase, a meeting space, thus building community. Over the last few years, I’ve read poetry at several indie bookstores throughout the tri-state area. Here is a list of some of my favorites, and most of them sell stock online.

Sellers Used Books and Fine Art: Located in Jim Thorpe, this bookstore is run by fine artist, Randall Sellers. He has hundreds of books for sale, used and at a fair price.

The Doylestown Bookshop: This store mostly has new books, across all genres. It also has a strong monthly poetry series that includes one featured reader, then an open mic. The store’s website is easy to navigate, so you can shop from home.

Farley’s Bookshop: Located in the historic town of New Hope, this store has the most impressive selection of poetry I’ve seen at any bookstore I’ve visted in PA. Furthermore, the store supports several indie presses/publishers. It also has a strong, well-known monthly poetry series that includes a featured reader and open mic.

The Wise Owl Bookstore: Located in West Reading, this bookstore is quaint and small, but has some surprising, interesting selections and several community events.

Autumn Leaves Bookstore: This is a large new and used bookstore located at the Itacha Commons, in Ithaca, NY.  If you ever go there, make sure to stop by the record store in the basement and the Wise Owl Cafe on the top floor.

Caroll & Caroll Booksellers: Located in Stroudburg’s downtown, this store has rows and rows of used books, with a heavy concentration in fiction. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the Poconos, especially since the store doesn’t have much of an online presence.

RiverRead Books:  This Binghamton, NY-based store has several community events and a decent selection of stock that can be purchased online or at the store. Check it out.

I’m sure there are some stores I’m forgetting, but these are the ones I know well because I’ve read at them over the last year or two, and I came home with several books that I purchased. If you have an indie bookstore in your community, please support it. As Patchett mentions in her article, the success of indie bookstores depends largely on the power of the consumer and the choices we make with our money.

A Little Treasure in Binghamton

More and more, independent bookstores are becoming an endangered species, thanks to Amazon and some other factors. But last night, I had the pleasure of partaking in a reading at a great indie bookstore as part of the launch party for the new issue of Harpur Palate, in which my poem “After Work” appears. RiverRead Books in Binghamton is located at 5 Court Street, right in the downtown, and only minutes from the SUNY Binghamton’s campus, if you’re traveling by car. Each section of the store is fairly expansive, and they have a section dubbed “slightly used books” in which you can find some classic literature and also some more contemporary works for a cheap price.

From what I observed last night, RiverRead Books is also a vital part of the community, hosting several events beyond the Harpur Palate launch party. If you are tri-state area writer, I suggest trying to book a reading there with local writers. Last night, we had around 70 people at the reading, including many college students, but I think the bookstore also worked hard to promote the reading.  If you are in semi-close proximity to Binghamton, I recommend visiting the bookstore and supporting the local business.

You can learn more about RiverRead Books by visiting its website here. To check out Harpur Palate, click here.