The “Great Books, Great Minds” Bookstore Tour Re-Ignited
It’s April of 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic is in full bloom. While nestled in front of my laptop at the dining room table, I had this flash of inspiration which involved chronicling all of the bookstores I’ve visited in my lifetime. This eventually became the catalyst of what I’m affectionately calling the “Great Books, Great Minds” Bookstore Tour.
My grand vision is to visit 2020 iconic bookstores (and libraries) by the year 2030. I’ll write articles that feature store owners, dedicated patrons, and guest authors that appear at the store.
I know, I know, it's a grand vision that I may not achieve in this lifetime. But I am definitely jazzed about sharing the bibliophilic experiences I’ll encounter along the way.
In the Fall of 2020, I had my first bookstore stop amid the pandemic at the incomparable Boulder Bookstore located in Boulder, Colorado. Despite having not visited this store in several years, I was immediately reminded upon walking through the doors why it remains among my all-time favorites.
But first about Boulder, the city where the store is nestled in. Home of the University of Colorado-Boulder, this college town of 107,000 residents has, to me, always had a rather odd feel to it. In one sense it smacks of privileged neo-liberalism with its surprisingly high cost of living and real estate growth restrictions. At the same time, a free-spirited vibe permeates throughout, bolstered by a young, rebellious activism minded community.
Boulder Bookstore is located on Pearl Street, the main arterial through the center-city district. It’s a store whose aesthetic feel aligns well with the local people and culture.
At the front door, I was greeted with a friendly but strict reminder “to wear my mask at all times while in the store, and refrain from too much book touching.” For me, the latter admonition was akin to being with a lover that you never kiss or hold hands with.
Over the course of my 90-minutes in the store, I realized I had touched, perused, (and in a couple of cases smelled) in excess of 30 books. It wasn’t until towards the end of my stay, I realized that they had a receptacle for store patrons to place books and magazines in that we’d touched.
Boulder Bookstore has a wide selection of books, including a used section where one can uncover some very interesting finds.
Me, I have a particular affinity for the store’s second floor which has a section of spirituality books that is unmatched anywhere. Books on Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and Mysticism among others dot the bookshelves. And in what may appear strange to some, the store also has a fine collection of meditation cushions for those inclined to pursue this spiritual practice.
The store’s booksellers have a reputation for being very knowledgeable, although I must say that on this most recent visit, a number of them seemed a bit gruff. My guess is that the pandemic doldrums and mandatory mask-wearing may have had something to do with this.
One of my greatest joys in visiting a bookstore is stumbling upon books by authors I’ve interviewed on “Great Books, Great Minds.” I had the pleasure of seeing Stephanie Land’s great work “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will To Survive” prominently displayed on one of the shelves during this store visit. The same with Antonia Malchik’s book “A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom, One Step At A Time”
As a part of my tour, I have committed myself to purchase at least one book at each store. So my selection that day at Boulder Bookstore is Afro-Pessimism by Frank B. Wilderson III.
In the coming months, I have stops planned for the Chicago area, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine among countless others. If you feel so inclined I would love your support in helping me make this grand vision a reality.
Boulder Bookstore is definitely an all time favorite for me, too... I plan whole days in my calendar around taking the bus up there just to visit...
Fun post. I love the idea of a bookstore travelogue.