Support Independent Bookstores Saturday!

Saturday is apparently “Small Business Saturday” as well as “Indies First Day,” in which authors and book lovers are being encouraged to support their local independent bookshops. Therefore, I encourage all local bookworms to visit Charleston, WV’s only independent bookstore, Taylor Books, on that day or any day. You can also order books and ebooks/epubs from Taylors online, but it’s worth the trip for the bookshop’s atmosphere.

Now that Trans Allegheny closed, Taylor Books is my favorite bookstore on this side of the Atlantic and has thankfully survived the invasion and demise of chain bookstores in the area. Oh and if you don’t like books (how strange and sad), Taylors also has the best coffee in Charleston – I especially like the Nicaraguan Vienna dark roast blend. If you don’t like books or coffee, I really don’t know how you live.

If you do like books and are looking for recommendations for Indies First Day, my personal favorite books of all time are: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (I recently bought this lovely edition from Taylor Books myself to add to my somewhat obsessive Return of the Native collection), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and pretty much everything else written by Kurt Vonnegut or Edith Wharton. More modern favorites have been Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Book Thief and anything by Kate Morton, Maggie O’Farrell and Victoria Hislop.

I also highly recommend the more modern classic The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is now being adapted for a movie. You can read my rave review of it here. I first heard about the Guernsey book from a former manager of Taylors and it was a longtime staff pick on the shelves there. I’ve since given copies of the book to several friends, all of whom loved it as much as I did.

Other favorite bookstores of mine on both sides of the Atlantic: Empire Books in Huntington, WV; Two Sisters bookery, Old Books on Front Street and Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC; and The Winding Stair, Hodges Figgis and Chapters in Dublin, Ireland.

It would be very nice if independent bookstores get the kind of support from Indies First Saturday that Record Store Day brings to indie music shops.

Trans Allegheny Books in Parkersburg, WV

Last weekend, Brendan and I drove to Parkersburg, West Virginia to visit Trans Allegheny Books. The owners have transformed the beautiful, 4-story historic Carnegie library building into the most unique used bookstore I’ve ever seen. Trans Allegheny Books reminded me of The Winding Stair in Dublin, Ireland. It has a gorgeous wrought iron and brass spiral staircase, stained glass windows, a hand-carved wooden staircase, and floors made of frosted glass tiles.

Every inch of the building is covered in books, and they have a great selection of poetry, non-fiction, classic literature, and new fiction titles in a wide range of editions (from dusty old hardbacks to sleek new oversized paperbacks) all around $3-5 each. I think we bought around twenty books during our recent visit, mostly classics.

As if the books weren’t enough for me to love the place, they also have two cats living in the shop! Forget Dewey, there should be a book about Trans Allegheny. One of the cats – a very sweet tortoiseshell feline – followed me around while I browsed through the books. It was heaven.

There used to be a Trans Allegheny branch in Charleston a decade ago (which we loved so much, we visited after our wedding), but it closed. Sadly, it seems the Parkersburg store may soon follow if business doesn’t improve. Not only have so many people abandoned reading books in favor of the internet, but the economic slump has apparently hit the bookstore hard. So if any of you happen to travel through the Parkersburg area, I definitely recommend checking it out. You can also order books online, view more pictures of the bookstore, and get directions at their website.

Trans Allegheny Books Website