I love books: reading them, listening to them, buying accompanying bookish paraphernalia, all of it. I have been reading as long as I can remember and would read cereal boxes when nothing else was available. My favorite Christmas presents growing up were Bobbsey Twin books and eventually Judy Blume books. In college, when it became clear that pre-med was not my path and I didn’t know what else to do, I majored in English literature, knowing I would be able to read.
I read books about books and have enjoyed exploring all the wonderful independent bookstores on our travels from the famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris to the less known Underground Books in Carrollton, GA and the friendly Interabang Books in my hometown.
Jason reading among the shelves of Shakespeare and Company and the arch of books at Underground Books in Carrollton, GA.
So when the opportunity came to indulge in this passion, we planned a trip solely around literary pursuits. We travelled to Winston-Salem just because my favorite podcaster, Modern Mrs. Darcy aka Anne Bogel, was interviewing Charlie Lovett, who wrote The Bookman’s Tale among other books. She had chosen this as the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club (of which I am a proud virtual member) October pick and his hometown bookstore, Bookmarks, invited her to interview him in person.
So with this purpose in mind, I focused on books for this portion of our journey. First, I went on a scouting trip to Bookmarks a week before the event. It was a great store with a wonderful selection, a coffee shop/bar and friendly people. It was also unique as it is a nonprofit with the proceeds going to their literary outreach in the community. They also put on an annual book festival which I hope to attend one day. While there, I learned one of their in-house books clubs was discussing Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, which I loved so I joined the group. It was a lively discussion led by one of the booksellers and I met locals who gave me hints of what to visit while in the area.
For the first time, I also reached out to one of the local members of Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) who I had “chatted” with in the online forums and we met for lunch. It was a very rainy day when we met at Panera, but so fun to chat with a fellow bookish nerd and to connect in person. Funny how the experience of “talking” online can easily translate to in person. Plus, we already had a friendly face when we attended the MMD events.
The discussion with Anne and Charlie was a fun evening with insightful discussion. It is so wonderful to see the person who created this fascinating world that you visited in his or her book. And an extra bonus when they can answer your burning questions about the book. Charlie Lovett (who also has a podcast) is a smart, witty person with great personality. Authors might have to be very introverted to write, but Charlie has a great extroverted side as well.
The next morning, Modern Mrs. Darcy members gathered for tea and a book swap at Bookmarks. There were about ten of us plus some MMD staff including Anne and our book club guru, Ginger, there to talk about books, the club, and of course, all the things you get when you gather a group of readers. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t a local as several had driven up from S. Carolina and Kelli, who I regularly see in the forums, had come all the way from California. Plus I met Jenny who is from the Dallas area and came up for the event so it was fun to see a fellow Texan.
Continuing with the literary weekend, Barry and I attended NestFest the next day at author and home decorator Myquillan Smith’s farm. This annual event is a mix of author appearances and booths with cozy homemade items to decorate your home. Jenny and her husband were also there so we had a chance to meet again and even saw Anne Bogel before her signing appearance. (She has written two books including I’d Rather Be Reading which I recommend for book lovers).
Not quite done with my literary pursuits, I drove over to Asheville to attend an appearance of one of my new favorite authors, Ann Patchett, hosted by a well-known and admired independent bookstore, Malaprops. Her new book, Dutch House, is wonderful. I listened to the audio which is read by Tom Hanks so double fun. As an author and owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, she gave a delightful talk on books overall, and added to my TBR (To Be Read) list as she talked about authors she admires or has interviewed and encouraged us to shop at independents. She also answered questions on the book, including one from me so I was thrilled.
As we travel, I continue to search for wonderful bookstores, literary sites and great libraries to visit. Please share any that you enjoy and think I should explore. In the meantime, as Anne Bogel quotes from Rainer Maria Rilke, “Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” And the places that they gather.
P.S. All links to books in this blog are from Interabang Books in Dallas, TX. One of the only independent bookstores in Dallas, it was recently hit by a tornado so please consider buying from them to assist this business in getting up on its feet. They have an online store and are creating a temporary store for your holiday shopping needs. They have a great staff who can help you pick out the perfect gift. The audio book is linked to Libro.fm which is a great way to get audio books and still support your local independent bookstore.