I bought How To Protect Bookstores And Why: The Present and Future of Bookselling (from, of course) about a year ago. I read it very slowly, not daring to presume that it would soon be very relevant to my life. But, of course, it now is, and I finished it a few weeks ago just as the plans for Wonderland Books became public. I recommend it to anyone who believes in the value of independent bookstores and wants to know how they can help ensure that Amazon doesn’t wipe them all out.

Why I picked it up: Wonderland Books.

Danny Caine is a bookseller in Lawrence, Kansas who is ideologically and philosophically passionate about indie bookstore. In How To Protect Bookstores And Why, he visits 12 bookstores in the U.S., interviewing their owners and exploring their origin stories. Each of these stores has faced challenges in the last several years, and each of them has developed creative strategies for survival. As a soon-to-be bookseller, there is a lot of daunting stuff in here: the headwinds caused by competing with Amazon, the tough economics of bookselling (high rent and labor, low margins), the politics of selling books to a very polarized country. There were definitely times when I thought, “Wait, why am I doing this again?”

But Caine is optimistic about bookselling, and the book is full of ideas for how people can support bookstores, and how bookstores can deliver on their promise. It all starts with being a committed reader, and buying books from local stores instead of resorting to the cheap, convenient route of ordering from Seattle. But it goes beyond that – people can support policies like affordable access to healthcare and walkable urban development; they can follow stores on social media and share their posts; they can defend stores from attacks by censors and free-speech opponents. They can try books from underrepresented authors and the stores that specialize in them. And they can instill in their children the joy that comes from discovering books in a well-curated store.

For their part, bookstores must dig in to their communities, allowing their customers to shape the inventory they carry and the events they hold. Booksellers can get involved in local issues and politics, cementing their role as local citizens. They must invest in curating unique, inspiring collections that entice customers to return, again and again. And they must provide their patrons with the chance to build community among other readers, through events, handselling and creative displays and inventory.

How To Protect Bookstores And Why is not just for booksellers; it’s an interesting and provocative look inside an industry that is both beloved and perenially endangered. If you care about bookstores and want to know how to keep them alive. I recommend picking this one up. Just don’t look for it on Amazon – it’s not there.

How To Protect Bookstores And Why was the 19th book of 2024.