For 9-year-old me, a perfect afternoon looked like this: Walking to the sweet shop to get sticky-sweet ice cream with my grandparents and then heading to Linden Tree Books, an independently owned children’s bookstore in Los Altos. I would browse the aisles, drag my fingers across spines and flip open covers to read summaries, trying to get a feel for my next read. My grandma would buy a book for me and a book for my sister, and as soon as we got home I would be glued between the couch and the pages of my new book.
This store became one of my favorite places and a source of many happy memories. My birthday and Christmas presents from my grandma would come wrapped in the store’s signature green and orange wrapping paper and I spent so much time there with her that the store started to feel like an extension of my grandma’s home. One day, after I had helped a dad find a book for his daughter, Linden Tree’s owner at the time came up to me and told me to come back when I was a teen and get a job at her store.
The store owners have since changed, but I did in fact go back. Last summer I started working at Linden Tree and my job has been a way for me to stay connected to and give back to the store that was such a big part of my childhood. Since then, my love for bookstores has only grown and every time I go to work, slice open a cardboard box and see the myriad titles and enticing covers staring back at me, I’m reminded of and can appreciate the fact that reading is still a widely loved activity, especially by children.
Since [starting my job], my love for bookstores has only grown.
In the beginning months of the pandemic, small businesses all over the world suffered and many were forced to close –– independently owned bookstores being no exception. According to the American Booksellers Association, 35 independent bookstores had closed from the start of the pandemic to October of 2020 –– approximately one a week.
Luckily, the independent bookstore community as a whole survived the worst of the pandemic and is actually faring much better than it did in preceding years. For myself and people all across the globe, the pandemic offered free time that reignited our love for reading, and people began buying more books. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the sale of print books increased from 2019 to 2020 and again from 2020 to 2021. This was largely due to the record number of online orders and more and more people coming to realize supporting their local bookstores was a good idea.
The biggest reason why some people won’t put in the effort to travel to their local bookstore is due to the “one click buy” in which Amazon will deliver any book you want to your doorstep in as little as a day. I was guilty of this purchase method for a short time as well, but it is important to realize that buying books from rich corporations like Amazon has a negative economic and environmental impact. Why should we give more money to a corporation that already makes $830,000 a minute, according to CNBC, when we could be supporting local businesses and spending money within our community?
Indie bookstores, including Linden Tree, put a lot of effort into being active in the community through hosting author visits, partnering with local schools and putting on other literature-related events. When “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” came out, I went to a midnight release party hosted at Linden Tree. The store was packed with fans in costume, and I had the time of my life playing themed games and trivia.
Visiting a bookstore also lets you meet your local booksellers and store owners –– experts filled with bookish knowledge who will give you amazing recommendations or assist with anything else you might need. I don’t remember ever being lost in a bookstore because some kind and chatty bookseller was always there to help.
Being inside a bookstore is almost like stepping into another world.
Indie bookstores are also just fun to be inside of. They smell nice, like books, and are charmingly decorated to fulfill the romanticized image you probably have of them in your head. Isn’t it every romantic’s dream to bump into the love of their life while browsing the aisles of a cute bookstore? Or be the mysterious-yet-alluring stranger always with their nose in a book? Being inside a bookstore is almost like stepping into another world, or a place outside of time, where the only thing that matters is what new story you will pick up. I always look forward to going to work, and seeing the colorfully packed shelves, warm glowing lights and festive decorations for whatever holiday is next at Linden Tree make entering the building such a happy and calming experience.
Buying from your local indie bookstore is fun, easy and beneficial to your community. It means no shipping, reducing your environmental impact, and even if the store does not have the book you are looking for, most are more than happy to order it for you. The Bay Area has many phenomenal independent bookstores, so next time you need a new book, visit one and make a memorable experience out of it.