Now, Britain likes to think of itself as the calm, sensible and intelligent uncle to the over-excitable, dumb-downed ADD child that is America and if you spend your time in the U.S. sat in gaudy motels watching cable TV, you would continue to have this same self-satisfied view of our across the pond neighbour, but unfortunately you could not be more wrong. Take a few steps away from any commercial centre in an American city and it seems as though you are literally falling over exciting, independently run stores, including those shops that are near-mythical on the UK high street, the independent book shop.
Working as a children’s bookseller, I have long suspected that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the US might actually love its books. Most American children’s books are neigh on works of art and the range of subject matter puts the UK publishing industry to shame.
Of course, it isn’t all perfect and I’m not claiming that the US doesn’t have all the problems that the UK book market does (of which there is a great summary here). Amazon is ubiquitous and Kindles are everywhere, I watched bemused as a teen girl in the airport spent an entire 2 hour delay browsing the kindle store, lamenting to her mother that there was nothing good to read.
On my travels along the East and West coast of America, I visited many bookstores, and I’ll grant you not all of them were great, but the fact remained that they were there. Unless you are very lucky, you don’t have any independent or second-hand bookshops in your local British town, much less a Barter Books or a Toppings, but if you ever find yourself in the land of the free, here are a few of my favourites: Continue reading