Tag Archives: Politics and Prose

Independent Bookstore Day

Tomorrow, Saturday April 28, is Independent Bookstore Day, a celebration of and at independent bookstores around the country. I love independent bookstores (duh). I especially love visiting bookstores when I travel. I drag my family into bookstores and tell them I need 20 minutes of uninterrupted browsing – and then I go up and down aisles, admiring bow the books are organized and checking out staff picks. Even though the last thing I need is more books, I always walk out with at least one.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, here are some of my favorite indies from around the country. If you’re near one of them, go check it out! And please comment and tell me about your favorite independent bookstores and why you love them.

1. Island Bookstore, Corolla NC. This outpost of the Outer Banks indie chain is so lovely that I bought a watercolor print that someone painted of it to frame and hang in my library. I go here whenever we’re in the Outer Banks. I want their bookshelves to be my bookshelves.

2. Politics & Prose, Washington DC. This is my home bookstore, my default bookstore, and the most dangerous place in the city for me. The selection is broad, the events calendar is robust, the staff is amazing… need I go on? There is a reason why P&P’s reputation stretches far beyond DC.

3. Powell’s Bookstore, Portland OR. New books living side-by-side on shelves with used books? Yes, sign me up. I’ve only been to this store once, but it’s a book lover’s dream. (Its tagline is “City of Books”).

4. Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle WA. This place has everything – a great kids section, tons of fiction, lots of recommendation hangtags – in a spacious, airy setting. Plus it’s in a cool part of town.

5. Strand Bookstore, New York NY. The Strand has lost some of its book-treasures-in-a-musty-basement feel, but it’s still enormous and full of books I want to read. Most of the books are discounted, even new ones, so it’s easy to walk out with a big bag of books even when you promised yourself you wouldn’t.

6. The Brewster Book Store, Brewster MA. There are a lot of indie bookstores on Cape Cod, but I happened to stop at this one and fell in love with it. There is a great selection packed into a small space, and it’s a perfect vacation book source.

7. Books & Books, Key West, FL. I stopped in at this store, which was founded by Judy Blume, while on vacation a few weeks ago. It’s small but has an excellent curated selection of new fiction. I walked around the store thinking, “I’ve wanted to read THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book… and THAT book…”.

Happy Independent Bookstore Day! Learn more about it here.

NICE TO COME HOME TO by Rebecca Flowers

Last night, I went to a book reading at Politics and Prose by a local author named Rebecca Flowers, who read from her new novel, Nice To Come Home To. The novel is about Prudence, a woman in her 30s living in DC, who loses her job and her boyfriend at the same time. With the support of her gay best friend, her irresponsible sister, and others in her life, Prudence comes to terms with changed expectations and a new definition of family.

Nice To Come Home To may sound like classic chick-lit; in fact, Flowers cites Jennifer Weiner and Helen Fielding as authors she turned to to remind herself of what it felt like to be unrooted and single in one’s 30s. But the portion that Flowers read last night, as well as her own engaging personality, suggest that this book is more than just another light read about the single woman’s quest for a man.  Flowers was great fun to listen to – genuine, funny, honest, and smart – and the portion of the book she shared, which takes place just after Prudence was dumped by the man she thought she was settling for, was both funny and touching.

I thought I’d share some of Flowers’ answers to questions posed by people at the reading last night.

Was the book based on Sense and Sensibility? Yes, she based Nice To Come Home To on one of her favorite, best-known novels. Someone once told her that as a first-time novelist, she shouldn’t try to re-invent the wheel, but should base her first book on a book she already knows.

How did she think of her characters? Flowers said that she is part of every character she writes, that her characters are combinations of people she knows. She said that it is a gift to have people in one’s life to observe, to write about.

How did she get through the difficult period of writing? She “threw money at it”. She got an au pair, so that she could find time to write despite having two small daughters. She said it was helpful to tell people that she was writing a book, so that everyone in her life knew about it. Also, she did two things to keep her going: she copied an “about the author” blurb from the back of a Nick Hornby book but substituted her name instead of his; and she taped next to her monitor a doctored NYT bestseller list with her name at the top.

Prudence is at times prickly and difficult. How did people respond to that? Flowers was surprised by how strongly people reacted to Prudence, including book editors and “smart women” who read the book and found the character to be too harsh. They were resistant to a character who might manipulate a man to get what she wants. Flowers felt very strongly about Prudence and refused to change her personality or water her down.

Any difficulty with the editors? Flowers didn’t choose the title or the cover but she is happy with them. She figures it’s her job to write the book (which is why she fought to keep Prudence as she was written) but the publisher’s job to market and sell it.

Thank you to Rebecca Flowers for sharing your book and your writing process!