Thursday, December 02, 2010

Let's do some shopping!

by Michael

I have a love/hate relationship with holiday shopping. On the one hand, holiday shopping is a pain: the crowds, the traffic (that one's new to moving to LA!), the same five Christmas songs in every store, etc. On the other, I really like buying gifts for other people, and I still much prefer going to the store to do it. I don't often have specific things in mind for specific people, but instead I really love to browse and see what's on offer.

Amongst other things, every year I buy books for people. And yes, I do actually pay for them. Rarely do I get someone a big bestseller or literary must-read (though there was the year I got my father The DaVinci Code), but more often than not it's titles I've found while browsing books at non-bookstores. Being an agent, I'm pretty familiar with what's on the tables at Barnes & Noble or the front page of Amazon. But the books that tend to get me most excited at the holidays are those little gift books or ridiculous coffee table books. The other day at a small boutique here in LA, I found Concorde by Frederic Beniada and Michel Fraile, a book that's a few years old but still remarkable in its detail, scope and beauty, and All My Friends Are Dead, a morbidly funny little picture book for adults by Avery Monsen and Jory John. Two gifts accounted for!

Clearly, it's a very hip store to carry both of these books, but it reminded me that an awful lot of my book buying happens outside of the major book outlets. In a big bookstore, I admit that I sometimes get overwhelmed by the selection and tend to gravitate towards what I already know. I really appreciate those times when I can savor very curated environments, whether it's a quirky selection (like the store I mentioned here) or the focus of a cookware or gardening store. I tend to spend more time with the books, and I while I can often leave Barnes & Noble without a book, I never leave a speciality store empty-handed.

I'm curious if there are other book people who also enjoy shopping and browsing in these environments. And what good discoveries have you made in them? Because I'm still looking for some gifts!


  1. I always prefer shopping in book shops, I'll be honest, but niche book shops - either second-hand ones or independent, non-chain shops that can offer much more of a personal service. Sadly, there's not many of those around these days!

  2. Interesting . . . I spend a lot of time in indie bookstores -- particularly love the mystery shops NYC has to offer -- but otherwise I do a lot of browsing on Amazon, whether it's novels or coffee table books or art books or whatever. So many things! So easy! Searchable preview!

    That being said, my favorite finds are the ones in quirky stores that don't solely (or even primarily) carry books.

  3. I once found a pocket edition of The Four Agreements in a small touristy store. Score! But, some of the best books I've ever purchased were specialty cookbooks in quaint little wine-country joints and even at the wineries themselves. Often, they'll pair recipes with certain wines. The pictures of the region and the food are usually amazing. Perfect for the wine lovers on my list. One for them, one for me!

  4. i love shopping in big bookshops, whether it's an independent or used book store or a waterstones (which i think is the uk equivalent of a b&n), i just love the choice. if i want a specific book i'll normally order it online so going into a bookstore for me means browsing for something i haven't heard of yet.

  5. When I'm at a non-bookstore, and I see books, I'm so drawn to them!

    I discovered this little "Pocket Book of Cheese", which is not, thankfully, an actual pocketbook full of cheese. It's a cheese guide that can fit in your pocket.

    I loved it.

    p.s. Perhaps I should mention I used to work at a Cheese House, and I love cheese. Does that make it less weird?

  6. Smithy - I too love small, independent shops with focused selections. Book Soup, which is just up the street from me here in LA, is a good example. And they ALWAYS have something quirky.

    Tracy - Don't you just love when you find something unique like that? I love being able to say that something is only available from the place I bought it.

    Brodi - Cheese. Yum.

    - Michael

  7. I found quite a few gifts while browsing at a bookstore last night! I'm hoping to get an e-reader for Christmas, and I think I will miss browsing bookstores more than I will physical books. I'm sure I'll still do it on occasion, but I'll feel compelled to buy something, which kind of defeats the purpose of going the e-route. Well, I'm sure there will still be some books for which I'll want physical copies...

  8. Lately I've been doing a lot of book shopping via NPR. I'll hear an interview with an author about their book & suddenly know just the person that has to have it. That IS fun. :)

  9. I adore browsing second-hand bookstores and tiny gift shops for unique gifts. I have found many coffee table-like books for my SIL and BIL (The complete Bourbon Guide for her- and another book on Submarine Warfare for my BIL) at these shops. Spending the time to browse not only feeds their cash register, but my heart as well. The tiny independent store owner? I'm in your corner.

  10. There's a quirky gift shop in my town that always has the most beautiful and eccentric items. I found my all-time favorite Christmas book (for kids and adults) there once. Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri is a gem that I now search for whenever I think someone would love a tale about giving, sharing and finding wonder again.

  11. VM - Complete Bourbon Guide?! Why do I not have this?

    Tricia - Star Mother's Youngest Child is so odd, but hard not to love!

    Kristin - I'm an e-book fanatic, and I still spend time browsing bookstores. Sometimes I buy the hardcopy, other times I make note and buy it later in e-book. I'm really looking forward to Google Editions, so that I can browse at my local bookstore, then buy the book in GE through them. Best of both worlds!

    Becky - NPR has the same power over me, too.

    - Michael


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