A month ago, I drove 34 miles to LaGrange, Illinois so I could shop in an independent bookstore. I went because there are no longer any full-service independent bookstores in Chicago’s southern suburbs or in northwest Indiana. I also went because I knew that a full-service bookstore would offer a plethora of unique and unusual gifts as well as books. I chose that particular day because of my tradition of giving chocolate advent calendars. I’ve been giving ten or twelve of the calendars to children I know for over 25 years. The recipients enjoy them and I adore the tradition. The logistics of the ritual means that I purchase, wrap, and deliver the calendars before December 1. When I started giving them, I could buy the calendars locally. I later purchased them from a faraway Christmas store but shipping was expensive and slow. Last year when I saw them at Anderson’s in LaGrange, I knew I’d found a new tradition.
This year, I arrived at Anderson’s on a frigid November day and found a bustling store. After making sure I had my eleven chocolate calendars, I headed to the back of the store where I spotted three unique gifts for my grandson’s first Christmas. In minutes I had gifts that I never would have found in any big box store near my home. I also found two distinctive toys for holiday events I planned to attend that include donating toys. I climbed around toddlers who were playing on the floor as their parents looked at books. I observed a young, developmentally disabled man who seemed to be a frequent visitor asking questions and enjoying his day. I glanced at the staff suggestions and smiled when I saw The Red Notebook, one of my favorite paperback titles, recommended. While I was grabbing stocking stuffers at the counter, I heard a woman request different wrapping papers for the gifts she was buying that the store was wrapping for her. Seeing the extensive selection of cards, I remembered that I needed more sympathy cards as it had been a season of losses.
The shop was bustling with buyers, yet the bookseller (she was no clerk) who handled my transactions acted as if I were the only one in the store while speedily handling my purchases with care. Having a very large stack of advance reading copies and new books awaiting me at home, I decided not to buy anything for myself but to return later to meet a friend for lunch and to introduce her to the store. When we return we’ll also visit the nearby antique mall and grab essentials at Trader Joe’s. Independent bookstores are thriving and they attract more than just locals.
Give yourself a holiday gift and enjoy the wonder of shopping in an independent bookstore this holiday season.The gifts from Anderson's won't be the only things under our tree. I also purchased gifts earlier in the year at Between the Covers, McLean & Eakin and Page and Palette bookstores.
The photograph is the book tree constructed with a few books from my shelves last year. A Nancy Pearl (librarian extraordinaire) action figure is the topper.