Design

6 Great Things Real Bookstores Have

Brooke Barker bookstore

Every Friday, we feature cartoons by illustrators we love. Here’s one by Brooke Barker of Sad Animal Facts

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke Barker bookstore

Brooke’s books — Sad Animal Facts and Sad Animal Babies — are available at many independent bookstores, including our neighborhood favorite, Books Are Magic. xoxo

P.S. 15 great reader comments on books, and what’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read?

  1. Ashleigh says...

    Husbands! Met the love of my life in the staff picks aisle of Books, Inc. in San Francisco while on a vacation nearly 10 years ago :)

  2. Late to comment on this one. This post inspired me twice. first to watch Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” once again! and….
    When I was a younger woman I desperately wanted to open a bookstore/cafe. I had big/visionary type plans. So fun to think about that time and place in my life. I lived in Montreal, had a crush on Leonard Cohen, ( whom I would see around once and awhile) , took lots of ballet/jazz classes/ate croissants and drank espresso/capp’s daily and adored everything FRENCH. What a lovely trip you took me on, Thank You :)

  3. SL says...

    Yes! To all of this but especially eavesdropping :)

  4. i feel this way about libraries! does anybody else get into reading phases? right now i’m in a books by women phase.

    • kaela d. says...

      This is a librarian-approved comment. :) xo

  5. Brittany says...

    Since I live in Portland but don’t always have the patience to brave parking near or public transportation to the main Powell’s, I have a strategy. I love their selection of new and used titles and want to support a local store. To that end, I order from their website and either have the order shipped to me, or choose the local pick-up option. That way, you can get the exact books you want (you can even choose a particular used copy) delivered to your Powell’s branch of choice.

  6. Robert Strupp says...

    Being autistic, I’m not really excited about meeting people. Or crowds. But, I do enjoy the smell of used books. I have since the 1950s when my older brother and I, basically, spent our school summers at the downtown refrigerated main Phoenix public library. Bookstore favorite? Probably seeing the new clerks with all the metal in their faces, their headwear, their tattoos . . . but actually the $2, $3 Clearance Shelves at my HPB is pretty cool.

    • Robin says...

      I agree that the “used book smell” is particularly wonderful. My sister and I also spent much of our childhood summers at the local public library! I don’t take advantage of bookstore clearance shelves enough–great suggestion!

    • Kelly Libby says...

      Big crowds are difficult for me, too.

  7. Kirsten says...

    Don’t leave us hanging with the Harry Potter one 😂

    • Yes! I want to know what she got!!

  8. Julie says...

    Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores closed most of their stores here in Northern CA some time back…what was left was in Berkeley, CA. Indy’s everywhere, but I’d not paid attention to most of them because of the bigger ones (the B’s) so now? I drive to Berkeley to just be able to go in and smell…and browse. My fav’s are Pegasus Books and Books, Inc. Pegasus has several locations in the Bay Area and a few have shop cats. Parit, the shop cat is very old, sleeps in a cat bed that is in a cut out cardboard box. I will buy a book in a bookstore that has a shop cat (or dog!) over one that does not…that there tells me a lot about the shop owner. At Books, Inc (same owner of Books Inc owned Compass Books at Downtown Disney!) I found a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nostrat that SHE SIGNED! Was particularly thrilled about that! Shop lady ringing me up said “you know she lives in the ‘hood, don’t you?” I just laughed and said, yeah, I figured as much, as in the Heat episode, I recognized her house and the street it was on in the first part of the episode…..

    • Elisabeth says...

      Julie, my aunt (Marion Abbott) co-owns a delightful bookstore on College Ave in Berkeley: Mrs. Dalloway’s. It’s magical — definitely worth a visit!

    • Julie says...

      Elizabeth! I have been walking into Mrs. Dalloway’s for decades! The Elmwood is one of my favorite neighborhoods… and *just like that* the circle came ’round to full….

    • Amanda says...

      Elizabeth, I live half a block from Mrs. Dalloway’s and LOVE it. Your’e right; it has just the right mix of books and other little treasures that make it magical.

  9. This is so cute and accurate!

  10. Owl says...

    Makes me wamt to go to a bookstore! Lol :)

  11. Lucy says...

    I love Brooke’s work!!!!!! Thank you for this!!!!!

  12. i love bookstores/libraries + murakami! getting lost in his books is the best

  13. mindi says...

    Just today a student walked into the library with me and breathed in, “Ahhh…I LOVE the smell of books!” he proclaimed. Then he skipped over to the sea mammals section.

    Also: one of my favorite topics to discuss with library friends is how quickly we can guess a book by the description students give us. “Um…it’s yellow and John had it a month ago? And there’s a dog, I think? Maybe a cat? And there’s blue at the top…”

    • Elizabeth says...

      Oh when I worked in bookstores I LOVED getting a puzzle like this. Someone would say like, “there’s a sea animal in the title, it’s by a British author, and the cover has some green.” I’d tell them to stop back by after they had dinner at the cafe next door (good set up!) and I and a coworker would go DEEP into the stacks, trade websites, and Google to figure it out. So satisfying to be able to unite someone with a book that was haunting them. :)

  14. teegan says...

    I worked at an indy bookstore during my summers off from college. It probably still exists, but I remember loving that NPR had a page with every book they’d recently recommended along with the show it was on and a photo of the book. If we could nail people down to general time of day they’d heard about “this one book? about one of those presidents…?” on the radio, we could usually find it!

  15. Vicki says...

    When I travel, I always look for an independent bookstore in whatever town I’m in. Bookstores have a geeat combination of warmth, visual interest and something for everyone. Especially for kids picking up a book can give them an extra boost to make it through a car ride or waiting for dinner. We do this so much that the last trip we were on I told my 6 year old we were going to go into town and check out the local places, and he said “Oh, you mean we are going to go to a bookstore?” Apparently he know my game – glad tp say both my kids love it too.

  16. Katie says...

    The tone of this post has a “You’ve Got Mail, let’s root for the little bookstore” vibe! Love it.

    The posts this week have been on. point.

  17. Claire says...

    Gosh, I love bookstores. All throughout my life, no matter my age, bookstores have been consistently calming. I particularly love when they have good chairs to sit in and browse, and, to top that, a discounted book section. :)

    My dad was telling me about this award winning bookstore he visited a few years back in England. I think it was in Bath. He walked in and one of the staff asked if was looking for anything in particular. My dad asked if he could get some recommendations. So, the staff member asked what my dad like to read. “Anything. I like fiction and non-fiction.” The seller then asked my dad to name a few fiction and non-fiction titles he’d really loved. Then, one by one, all four or five of the bookstore employees emerged and started to listen in. For the next five minutes, each employee dashed around the store. Eventually, they returned and each gave my dad two books, a fiction and non-fiction, that they recommended. He’d never heard of any of them. So, he asked if there was a chair to flip through them. “Yes, of course! Have you seen our reading room chair upstairs?” Lo and behold, for a few pounds an hour, you could rent a plush air chair, supplied with a tea kettle and biscuits within arms reach, to sit and read your book. Years later, he still describes this as one of the most exciting days in his book-lover’s heart.

    For me, just this past summer, I was talking a walk in Edinburgh on a vacation. My knee started to hurt, and I happened to notice a bookstore. Naturally I went in and started to browse. One half was vintage collectables, the other half new titles. The seller at the new books store was so enthusiastic. He announced to the room, “anyone like a wee dram? cup of tea? glass of wine?” It was 2pm. I obliged and asked for a cup of tea. Eventually, the other patrons left and it was just me, sitting in one of his chairs, kind of like a living room, browsing a book. So the seller came and sat down across from me and opened his own book. We read together in silence for half an hour, drinking our tea. It was lovely. And now, every time I pick up Swing Time by Zadie Smith, I love to look at the bookstore stamp and remember where I bought it.

    • another Claire says...

      dreamy!

    • amy says...

      This makes me want to open a bookshop with tea and armchairs.

    • Lisa says...

      I used to live in Edinburgh and I think it has the most second hand book stores per head of population.

      My current favourite bookstore is Daunt on Marylebone High Street in London. It’s areanged by country – so in the Japan section you’ll have books by Murakami, guidebooks, cook books, history books. It’s amazing!

    • Jo says...

      Thank you so much for this comment! This sounds like the best book store in the world…I’ve looked it up and it looks like your dad was talking about Mr B’s emporium of reading delights. Have added to my travel list!

  18. Kelly says...

    I run a secondhand bookshop and this all rings very true (especially that people are surprised and delighted to learn we have a toilet they can use). Also there is nothing better in the world then watching staff or customers bonding over pop culture references. <3

    This is the best and hardest job I've ever had, and there is nothing in the world like the feeling of knowing that people are just happy knowing my business exists and/or stumbling upon it by luck.

  19. Morgan says...

    #7. A children’s section featuring well-worn, velvet covered tuffets to sit on and read to the kids.

  20. Meghan says...

    omg so cute. for anyone looking for a new book recommendation, I’ve been reading the grandmothers by doris lessing and I can’t put it down. :)

  21. Jen says...

    I had to laugh at the “bookstore smell”, because there is something about the smell that always makes me need to…forgive me…poop. My sister and I even say, “I’m going to the bookstore”, whenever we’re off to the bathroom. I know this is somewhat disgusting, but I’m also wondering if this happens to anyone else?????

    • Theresa says...

      No but hahahaha! So funny and cute!

    • Rachel says...

      LOL. My mom always has to poop at Target. She says it is because it’s cold. I wonder if there is a similar phenomenon. Hahaha…

    • Jane-socommon says...

      Yes! My best friend does this! I need to tell her she’s not the only one!!

  22. Jenifer Brunner says...

    My Dad has a rare and out of print bookshop and there’s something about the smell of old books that is intoxicating. Also, just imagine the history of the books and the lives of their past readers can’t get that with new books!

  23. Love this so much! I adore roaming around bookstores!

    Rebecca

  24. This is so sweet! And reminds me to make a date to pop into Books Are Magic this weekend. :)

  25. I love this! But… I think I’m the only adult human book lover / reader alive who doesn’t like old book smell. I have a very sensitive and strong sense of smell, so perhaps that has something to do with it, but to me it’s similar to thrift store smell, which is a used-but-not-in-a-good-way scent. New book scent, though, I can get behind.

    • Ro says...

      I feel like the only book lover and reader alive who *can’t* smell it! I used to work in a bookstore and even then I was puzzled by how many people came in and immediately started talking about the scent.

      I can’t smell anything unless I press my face into the pages. There’s a slight musty smell. Is that it? I feel sad.

    • Miranda says...

      Me too! I adore books and reading and I studied literature and work in a library…but that musty old smell, I do not like at all.

  26. Claire says...

    This could be my favorite cartoon ever. Libraries and bookstores are some of my favorite places on earth. Here in Austin we are lucky to have BookPeople, where all of the above things are joyfully commonplace. There is also the magic of meandering without purpose, and as you wander you can find treasures: coffee or tea,the perfect greeting card, socks, earrings, calendars, do-dads like pocket angel coins. And nobody tracks your browsing history there, unless you invite them to do so. yay.

  27. Katy Keesey says...

    Yep, I’d read Murakami’s grocery list. I mean, there’d obviously be something totally weird and magical about it. Right?

    • I could take a stab at it:

      – spaghetti
      – whiskey
      – (possibly imaginary) cat food

  28. Meghan says...

    Also, the pure joy of browsing! I cannot even begin to estimate the number of hours I’ve spent wandering up and down aisles, just looking, looking, looking. The gems I’ve stumbled across simply because I liked the cover art, or the author’s name was funny, or the title was unusual. I always seemed to find the best treasurers when I was wandering inside, avoiding the rain outside, while I waited for the bus.

    And, for all the Pacific Northwesters out there: POWELL’S BOOKS FOREVER!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, or even just running your hand along all the book covers is so calming.

    • Margot says...

      I had the perfect date at Powell’s in 2016 in Portland! That place is magical!
      p.s. I’m still dating that guy. <3

  29. AMB says...

    Hey COJ, if you love bookstores so much you should consider linking less to Amazon when you include books in your posts! Shopping at bookstores not only is better for stores, it’s also better for the writers and publishers who have helped to create the books. Every time you link to a book page on Amazon, it reinforces the idea that that is the default place to buy books, when there are so many wonderful bookstores that are great places to shop!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, thank you so much for the feedback! we’ve started linking to independent bookstores, including our favorite, Books Are Magic, as well as to amazon, which i know many readers use. here’s a recent post with a mix of links: https://cupofjo.com/2018/11/12-beautiful-childrens-books/

      we’ll keep doing more and more — thank you again! xo

    • Abesha1 says...

      Here are two:
      The Reading Bug, San Carlos CA. (30 mins south of San Francisco)
      Grassroots Books, Corvallis OR.

      Both, so lovely. And FYI, most small bookstores will order you almost anything and have it in about 2 days!

    • Yes, I agree! Amazon is very hard on small booksellers, too, which I’ve learned from friends in the business. I avoid shopping on Amazon as much as possible for that and other reasons.

    • Jessica says...

      I was in Books are Magic today and overheard a woman tell another woman to wait and “just buy the book on Amazon”. They left a few minutes later–having bought nothing. They DID take a selfie together first though. It was so sad. Support independent bookstores!

  30. Lori says...

    I wish my small town still had their little bookstore :(

  31. Julie says...

    I spend at least an hour every weekend at the bookstore. I grab a latte, browse through different sections depending on my mood (some days I look through cookbooks, sometimes self-help, or I immerse myself in a good novel). I feel recharged when I leave.

    • Libbie says...

      Julie, how lovely! This sounds like the perfect hour to yourself. What a special ritual.

  32. Laura C. says...

    If only I had a job I would purchase a book per month. I have a Kindle, but, oh, that feeling of going to the bookstore knowing that you’re going to get out with a new book on your hands…. <3 <3
    Thank you for this!

    • Catherine says...

      Library! I LOVE the library, and it’s also allowed me to opened up my scope of literature and what I’ll try. If I don’t like the book, no harm, I just return it!

  33. I would love an independent book store in our town. We have a Barnes & Noble not too far away, which I go to and enjoy, but something local where I could wander and just enjoy found time would be dreamy.

  34. jeannie says...

    We used to have a local Independent bookstore where the the owner (sales person?) could answer questions about what a reader might like based on prior favorite books or tell us what was popular – but somewhat literary – with 11 year old boys. I LOVED that place. This cartoon makes me so nostalgic for it.

    • Emma says...

      My local library has this! The librarians are awesome at recommending books you might like based on your preferences. I have found some of my favorites that way.

  35. Anna says...

    I used to work at a really terrific bookstore (57th Street Books, in Hyde Park, Chicago) and the title-guessing magic was definitely a thing! I loved working there.

  36. This is absolute perfection. Love love love.

  37. Anne says...

    This morning I found the most magical library in my small city. I’m currently sitting at a small wooden desk looking out a sunny window at a gigantic holly tree, smelling old books and listening to the footsteps on creaky wooden floors. H.P. Lovecraft used to come here! Edgar Allen Poe was dumped here! Major heart-eyes. I though anyone who loves bookstores would appreciate this <3

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “Edgar Allen Poe was dumped here!” = wow! sounds like a magical place.

      i also love libraries in the same way. we went to the most amazing one this summer in camden, maine. it overlooked the harbor and had a beautiful kids section with so many great books and “discovery kits,” which had books about a topic (say, the rainforest or airplanes) along with toys and games that related to the subject.

      ahhh, if we could spend all day every day in bookstores and libraries… :)

    • Sarah says...

      You’re in Baltimore! Nice to see a fellow Baltimore resident on here.

    • Sasha L says...

      If we could spend every day in libraries and bookstores!! Yep!

    • Anne says...

      Actually, Providence! Poe spent some time in New England when he was younger.

      However, I used to live in Baltimore and loved The Book Thing. I was thrilled to see that it’s reopened after the fire!

    • Meg says...

      I’m super curious if you are willing and see this, Anne, to know where? I see the Baltimore comment but I also thought it might be Providence or another New England location? I’d love to take my husband to this library.

    • Anne says...

      Meg, you got it, the Athenaeum in Providence

    • Eileen says...

      I think she’s talking about the Providence Athenaeum. :)

  38. M says...

    I am loving Brooke’s illustrations! They make me happy and warm. Thank you!!

  39. MaryB says...

    When my son was very young, he asked the librarian for a book he had heard about on Reading Rainbow. He said “It’s call The Stolen Piece of Paper.” I stood there looking at him like he had three heads, while the librarian pondered. She asked him to tell her a little bit about the book and then *BAM* she got it: Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” Superpowers FOR THE WIN.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      DAMN! that is good!!!

  40. Alec says...

    What book did she end up getting????

    • Lisa says...

      Yes, what was the after-Harry Potter book??

    • Katherine says...

      Definitely want to know what the Harry Potter esque series is! On tenterhooks…

    • Sasha L says...

      Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo. They are just wonderful!

    • Sarah says...

      I’m dying to know the same thing!!

    • Julia says...

      maybe Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    • Kate says...

      I strongly recommend the Rivers of London series. It’s described as Harry Potter meets The Fuzz, and it’s so true!

    • Karyn says...

      I love all the suggestions! This exact thing happened to me last summer in one of Seattle’s Third Place Books locations. The answer for that reader was Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series :)

    • Caro says...

      I was soooo curious, too! Thanks for the recommendations!

    • Katherine Long says...

      Came to the comments hoping for the answer! Brooke! Help us out!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i just emailed her to ask! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      here’s brooke’s answer!

      “The bookstore employee had a lot of suggestions, and the girl spent a while deliberating with her and ended up choosing Percy Jackson. I wish I could have visited the store later somehow to see how she ended up liking it!”