by Michael Schiavo
What is a bookseller? A wizard who juggles the mysteries of the cosmos? A vaudevillian staging a never-ending performance? A scientist inviting you on an expedition through the hollows of reality? Just what is a bookseller? This is one of our daily meditations at The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in downtown Lenox.
Booksellers are mercurial. They must pivot from one reader to the next, helping this one find the perfect storybook for their five-year-old granddaughter, helping the next figure out which translation of Proust is best, helping another decide what paperback would be good to take on a trip to Barcelona. There’s no one hat a bookseller wears, and when you have a collection on your shelves as deep and diverse as The Bookstore does, the worlds you can enter are endless.
As a bookseller, you must be a doctor, prescribing the necessary treatment for the reader who’s out of balance, who needs a cure for their disquiet. That remedy might be the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr or Marie Kondo’s tiny text on feng shui, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It could be Lucia Berlin’s short stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women or Helen Macdonald’s memoir H is for Hawk.
As a bookseller, you must be a farmer, cultivating a bounty of tomes known and unknown so that the reader will have an orchard to visit and gather sustenance. That could mean retrieving The Story of the Lost Child, the latest installment in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, or getting ready to pluck the newest thriller from Charles McCarry, The Mulberry Bush, when it arrives in early November. Imbibing classics like the ancient Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu or the more contemporary Little, Big by local author John Crowley will certainly fill you up.
As a bookseller, you must be a banker, advising readers on solid investments so that our return will be a civically-engaged and literate community. To that end, the reader might look to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ heartbreaking and necessary letter to his son, Between the World and Me, or the new memoir by Patti Smith, M Train. Or The Collected Poems of Michael Gizzi. Or Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. Or Margaret Atwood. Or Bernadette Mayer. Or. Or. Or.
Any one of the books at The Bookstore might be the one you’re looking for, might be that melody you’ve been waiting to hear. Or if the book you are looking for is not here maybe it can be found at an unexpected spot such as at one of the Berkshire’s museum shops such as the Norman Rockwell gift shop or the gift shop at MASS MoCA. If spirituality is what you are seeking, be sure to visit the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy Gift Shop or for a more new age approach there are fantastic books to be found at the Kripalu store.
The only way you’ll ever know what you are searching for is to come into one of these stores and have a conversation with us. Let us know what you like to read, what kinds of genres or subjects you want to know more about, what you’ve been waiting to read but have no idea if it even exists. Be open to possibilities. It’s in that space where love begins.
Michael Schiavo is a poet who has worked at The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox since 2011.