The Confessional Introduction

Hello, my name is Mark and I am a raging bibliophile.

I do have a book coming out (Lightbreaker from Night Shade Books), but we’re in that weird intermediate state of non-existence. Here, let me explain (and I apologize up front if it may seem like I’m equating a book release to giving birth; they’re not the same thing, but it’s the closest equivalent that us guys can point to).

My son, Solomon, was our first child and he was really happy to stay inside his mother. We were overdue, and so were able to schedule a day where he would be induced. We went to the hospital at 6:00AM, proceeded to spend all day working up to labor, and at 9:00PM were given a choice: do the c-section in an hour, or do it in five hours when our baby doctor got out of a surgery she was scheduled to do at midnight. We opted for now, and this was the magic word that kicked off a huge flurry of activity. The room filled with eighteen hundred nurses who prepped and moved my wife in about five seconds, leaving me all by myself in this empty room. “Put these on,” the last one said, pointing to the scrubs on the bed. “We’ll come get you when we’re ready.” I changed, and waited. I looked out the window and noticed that it had started snowing, some time in the last twelve hours. White world. Cusp of midnight. Day before New Year’s Eve. All quiet. Nothing moving.

And I sat. And I waited. And there was nothing I could do. Absolutely nothing. Someone would come along eventually and collect me. And then I would be a dad. But, until then, I watched the snow fall.

It’s like that with Lightbreaker. Someone will be along eventually to tell me that it is out. Probably my mother, as she’s pretty excited about this. Not quite as excited as that other time when she became a grandmother, but similar.

So, while we’re waiting, let’s talk about other books, and bookstores.

Like Powell’s. Now, I assume I’m among friends here, where I can admit to the fact that I can’t NOT go into a bookstore. It doesn’t matter how big or small, how indie or corporate, it’s a room with BOOKS! I know all the bookstores within Lunch Reach from my office (Lunch Reach being close enough that you can go there, browse, and get back to your desk in an hour while still managing to choke down a sandwich before you get off the elevator). I get emotional whiplash when Jeff says that he’s going to have a book sale: sorrow (“Oh, the poor guy has run out of shelf space and has to let some of his darlings go”), jealousy (“Wait! The bastard has run out of shelf space!”), and elation (“Hey! I’ve got shelf space. Come to me, my new friends!”).

No? Just me?

Anyway, bookstores. Powell’s, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, takes up an entire city block in Portland, Oregon. And not just the ground floor of that block. It goes up three or four floors (depending on which corner you’re standing on). It is Disneyland for bibliophiles. And, in much the same way as that stretch of land in Anaheim, the support structure that has grown up around Powell’s has transformed that area into quite the upscale urban living space. If I were to ever timeshare a condominium, it would be in that tower two blocks from Powell’s. Talk about writer retreats.

I’ve been in Portland this weekend for Orycon, where I wasn’t participating on panels because, you know, I don’t quite exist yet. So I went to Powell’s, and I bought more books than I could reasonably carry in both hands. Meghan’s post the other day about Freebird Books got me thinking about favorite bookstores. While I sort through my haul, let’s hear about your favorite bookstore. That way I can plan my next vacation.


  1. says

    Hi Mark.

    Well, if your book tours take you to the Twin Cities, we here are blessed with *two* genre stores of high quality, Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven.

    Want something other than F/SF to whet your appetite? It’s not Powells (what is, except maybe the Strand in NYC). We have a pretty good used/mixed bookstore called Magers and Quinn. They used to have a downtown annex I frequented on my lunch breaks. Sadly and tragically that closed, but the main store is doing well.

    Interested in a small press? The Minnesota Historical Society has a small press of books mainly focusing on MN history and sells them, and other books about the North Star State, at the Minnesota History Center.

  2. says

    No matter how digititized the world becomes, there is still nothing so special as real, printed books, used or new. Mark, I can tell right away that you are oNe Of uS.

    My favorite bookstore here is Jacksonville, Florida is the Chamblin Bookmine, a vast network of hand-made wooden shelves containing over a million hardbacks, paperbacks, magazine, comics, and more. People stand in line to consult with Ron Chamblin, a respected appraiser of rare books who founded the store in 1976 to buy, sell, trade, and enjoy books. There is even a section of shelves that are actually a secret door. Folks assume this door leads to Mr. Chamblin’s office, but I suspect it may be a portal to Diagon Alley or maybe even the fabled Ambergris!

  3. says

    Paul: It hadn’t even occurred to me that I might be collecting stores in the event of a book tour. See? That book love runs over everything else. I do have some other excuses to visit the Minneapolis area, and I’m now armed with how I’ll spend my free time.

    Bill: That secret door probably is one of the fabled entry points to the Back Side of the World.

    One of the things that really endeared me to Shakespeare & Co in Paris was the beds tucked away in the stacks on the upper floors. I don’t know if it was true or part of the mystique of the place, but apparently, young writers seeking their way in the world on less than five Euros a day could sleep in the store. Back among the books.

  4. says

    Though I’ve only been once, there’s “Tattered Cover” in Denver, which is, if I remember correctly, three floors of indie bookstore goodness. Awesome.

    Also: the uber-hip “Book People” in Austin–saw both Irvine Welsh and Bruce Campbell in one weekend there. Gold

    In Denton (Texas), there the town’s crown jewel, Recycled Books, which is, as you can guess, a used bookstore. That aside, wandering through room-upon-room of the old Opera House-cum-bookstore is like nothing else: tucked-away closets lined with shelves, hidden rooms, long corridors of books and vaulted chambers of books. It’s fantasyland, I tell you.

  5. says

    Why did you not tell me about this the last time I was in Texas. I had to settle for Book People, which was fine and good, mind you. I found a great book on Fulcanelli, and read it while having a bite at Whole Foods. But! old Opera House! Books hidden in closets! Dude!

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