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'One for the Books,' 'The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap' and 'My Bookstore'

Several fall releases celebrate books and the writers who love them.

By Staff / November 12, 2012

One for the Books By Joe Queenan Penguin Group 256 pp. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap By Wendy Welch St. Martin's Press 304 pp. My Bookstore Edited by Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America Black Dog and Leventhal 384 pp.

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“There is no e-reader or Kindle in my future. My philosophy is simple: Certain things are perfect the way they are. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books.”

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When humorist and critic Joe Queenan published these words – adapted from his new memoir, One for the Books – in The Wall Street Journal last month, he instantly gained a multitude of new cyberfriends. (“Love love love this!” exulted one Twitter user as she shared Queenan’s thoughts with a few thousand of her closest followers.)

Is there an e-book backlash at work here? Or have publishers been pushed into high gear by all those constant warnings about the death of the book?
Whatever the driver, it’s hard to ignore one of this season’s more notable trends in reading: books about how much we love books.

Queenan’s memoir is a passionate tribute to paper-and-ink books as a mainstay of his existence. His reading style (he never consumes fewer than 15 books at a time) is somewhat idiosyncratic. And his tastes (he dismisses Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and anything recommended to him by a friend) may strike some as offensive. But his enthusiasm is infectious, and his conviction that reading is the act that has given him life and breath will ring true to book lovers everywhere.

Oddly, among Queenan’s passionate dislikes are independent booksellers. (He calls them “prigs” and complains that “[t]he only writers they like are dead or exotic or Paul Auster.”)

Don’t tell that to Wendy Welch, author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. When Welch and her husband, Jack, took the unlikely gamble of opening an independent bookstore in the first floor of a 1903 Edwardian mansion in a tiny, overlooked Appalachian coal town, most folks gave them a year.

Contrary to expectations, however, they have thrived, and Welch’s book is a celebration of their success. Although success, in this case, doesn’t mean high finance. “The shop makes enough money for us to live with frugal grace,” Welch writes. More important to Wendy and Jack – in addition to the chance to “follow our bliss” – is the role they play in the life of the community.

“People stop into our store daily, saying, ‘A few minutes to kill so I thought I’d look around,’ ” Welch writes. “They’re not going to buy anything. They just want to pull some peaceful, book-scented air through their lungs.”

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