Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Bookshop Strikes Back, by Anne Patchett

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Ann Patchett's entertaining 20-page booklet gives many insights into what it's like to open a bookshop.

When novelist Ann Patchett found that her hometown of Nashville no longer had a truly independent bookshop, she went about opening up one herself. She found a business partner, Karen Hayes, a sales rep at Random House. The deal the two women struck was that Karen would do the day-to-day running of the store, while Ann would promote and finance it. Karen wanted to call it Parnassus Books (in Greek Mythology, Mount Parnassus is the home of literature, learning and music). Ann didn’t like the title. She wanted something easier to remember, like Red Bird Books, but she finally gave way as Karen was going to be spending most of her time in the store. They opened their doors in November 2011 and haven’t looked back.

The Bookshop Strikes Back is the story of how that Nashville bookshop came into being. It was originally published as a piece in the Atlantic Monthly and is here printed as a neat little 20 page booklet.

As someone who has taken the plunge and opened a bookshop I found much that resonated in this essay. When Patchett told journalists she was opening a bookshop, they told her that bookshops were now dead, but would then go on to reminisce about the favourite bookstores of their youth. This is an interesting contradiction that I and my co-owner often experienced.  I could also relate to Ann and Karen’s aims for their store, to create a pleasant place where you could get advice, books gift wrapped or simply just have a chat about favourite authors.

This is a smart little booklet written in a snappy and engaging style. It provides many insights into what it's like to open up a bookshop. You could probably read it in twenty minutes. For its retail price of 0.99 cents, it makes a nice addition to a gift for a book lover.

The Bookshop Strikes Back, by Ann Patchett. Published by Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781408847503  RRP $0.99