What Does Your Ideal Bookstore Look Like?

Susie Rodarme

Staff Writer

Susie Rodarme is obsessed with small press literary fiction and tea. Other notable skills: chainmaille weaving, using Photoshop semi-correctly, and drinking gin.

When I was a wee reader, I didn’t have a lot of bookstore options. Up until I was 14 or so, the only bookshop in my small town that I knew of–other than the crappy used bookstore–was a Waldenbooks in the mall, a seriously tiny bookstore. I’ve seen Claire’s locations that were twice as big.

Then we got a Books-A-Million (where I worked after I turned 18 and could legally sell the porny stuff), and it was the best damn thing that ever happened to me. SO HUGE! There were genres of books I did not even know existed until I went there.

I’ve been lucky enough in the last fifteen years or so to have visited other, better bookstores than the chain stores in my hometown. I’m a little vexed, though, because the only bookstore here in Columbus that I really like is way on the other side of town–and it’s still not ideal. Good, but lacking some pretty key elements that I would love to see in a bookstore.

My bookstore frustration got me thinking: what would my ideal bookstore look like? I think I came up with some characteristics that, even though they would probably make a bookstore fail financially, would be perfect for me:

–A well-curated collection organized any other way than purely alphabetically. I hate the mish-mash of generic “fiction”, or even “fiction” vs. “genre”. Can I have a shelf of apocalyptic speculative fiction? Literature grouped by school?

This would be a pain in the ass to navigate if you don’t know, for instance, that Camus was an absurdist. But in my ideal bookstore, this is how I would like to discover books. Maybe my fancy bookstore also has an app that tells me where specific books are.

–A crapload of small press books. I give every indie bookshop in town the side-eye because they don’t even have a semi-prominent display of Two Dollar Radio books, much less other small presses. Two Dollar Radio is headquartered IN MY CITY. WTF. Every indie bookstore here should be all over that.

I’m jealous of people who live near Farley’s because they have a bomb section of small press literature and I want to go there and maybe move in.

–Spaciously designed. There’s an indie bookshop here that’s so claustrophobic that I have panic attacks when I go. I can’t even concentrate hard enough to look at titles because someone will always come stand rightnexttome. My ideal bookstore would need a design that doesn’t make me hyperventilate.

–Every book facing me. I know, this is extravagant and unrealistic, but maybe also necessary if they’re no longer in alphabetical order. Plus, DAT COVER ART.

–Open late. I’m a night owl, what can I say? Do you really need to open early, Ideal Bookstore? You could open at like noonish and stay open til midnight. Then my late-night hankerings for new reading material could be fulfilled without having to shop digitally at you-know-where.

–Reading recommendations sprinkled all over the store. If I’m looking at, oh, The Polish Boxer, and there’s a shelf card from the bookseller recommending it if I like Anthony Bourdain, I am picking that book up and buying the almighty hell out of it. Blurbs are not useful to me; personal recommendations are.

–Comfy chairs, because obviously.

Now all I need is to win the lottery, as I know sustaining my ideal bookstore would mostly be up to me. The bookstore I dream about is maybe not so profit-friendly.

What do you look for in an bookstore? What are your favorite bookstores like?