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Every Book Lover Will Love These Sweet Stories About Local Bookstores

Jerry Seinfeld once said, “A bookstore is one of the only pieces of physical evidence we have that people are still thinking.” Well, it appears we’re thinking less, because there are fewer and fewer bookstores around. Writer/artist and Reader’s Digest cartoonist Bob Eckstein seeks to rectify that with his wonderful homage to these temples of thought, Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores (Clarkson Potter). It’s chock-full of sweet, funny, and poignant stories. And a few celebrities make appearances, too.

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great-stories-bookstores-golden-notebookCourtesy Bob Eckstein

The Golden Notebook: Woodstock, New York

“Once, a customer came in looking for a book for his daughter. Our children’s buyer, Gaela Pearson, was busy trying to put together a cardboard book display. She told the man, ‘I would be happy to help you. In fact, I’ll give you 20 percent off your purchase if you help me put together this display.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t need a discount, but I’d be happy to help.’ Gaela and the man sat on the floor and assembled the display. The man bought a book and then left. Gaela’s daughter, working in the back of the store, said, ‘You know who that was? Didn’t you notice his eyes were two different colors? That was David Bowie.'” —Jacqueline Kellachan, owner

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great-stories-bookstores-city-lightsCourtesy Bob Eckstein

City Lights: San Francisco

“We once received a letter from a young woman who wanted us to know, and hoped we wouldn’t be mortified by the fact, that she had surreptitiously placed her father’s ashes in various nooks and crannies throughout our poetry room. She said it was her father’s favorite place in the world and she was comforted by knowing he was there.” —Stacey Lewis, City Lights 

Check out these must-have gifts for book lovers in your life.

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great-stories-bookstores-garden-districtCourtesy Bob Eckstein

Garden District Book Shop: New Orleans

“Anne Rice once arrived at a book signing at the shop by means of jazz funeral procession in an antique hearse pulled by mules. She emerged in the bookstore from inside the closed coffin.”—author Bob Eckstein

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great-stories-bookstores-books-and-booksBob Eckstein

Books and Books: Coral Gables, Florida

“One night when I was just about to close, my bookseller, George Henry Keen, tapped me on the back of my shoulder and said these seven magic words, ‘Paul McCartney needs your help in fiction.’ I showed him (his pregnant wife, and two bodyguards) around the store, but he was most interested in anything Dickens. He fondly remembered the Penguin editions he read at university and regaled me with stories of a particular literature professor who had a great influence on him.” —Mitchell Kaplan, owner

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great-stories-bookstores-burkesCourtesy Bob Eckstein

Burke’s Bookstore: Memphis, Tennessee

“Current owners, Corey and Cheryl Mesler, met at Burke’s. Corey was manager and saw Cheryl, a student at University of Mississippi, at the counter buying Selected Poems of Leonard Cohen. He elbowed his way over so that he could wait on her and blurted out, ‘You’re buying Leonard Cohen! Will you marry me?’ A year later Cheryl was hired at the store. Cheryl reminisces, ‘We started dating two weeks after I was hired. We kept it a secret for six months from the owner who forbade employee relationships. She eventually figured it out.’ Two years after that they were married. The reception was in the store. They eventually purchased the store outright and have spent the last twenty-five years together in Burke’s.”—author Bob Eckstein

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For more stories

Read more charming stories about bookstores in Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores (Clarkson Potter), available now.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest