R – R.J. Julia Booksellers – Madison Conn

WELCOME to the letter R and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

768 Boston Post Rd. Madison, Conn         203-245-3959

There is nothing like a satisfied customer writing a positive comment about their experience in your bookstore to make all the work it takes to run a successful business worthwhile. “R.J. Julia’s has a lovely, open, welcoming feel. I love bookshops in general and this is certainly an excellent example of that with a great range of books and knowledgeable staff. I think what makes R.J. Julia Booksellers is a great place to visit is the combination of the bookshop and the café at the back that serves very nice and well-prepared food all day. It makes it a great stop for families or couples. You can browse for books and then head for lunch or just a coffee and have a very nice couple of hours.”

 R.J. Julia Booksellers is a Publisher’s Weekly Bookseller of the Year and also named one of the crown jewels of downtown Madison. Not all the bookstores I researched made my cut, but sight unseen, I fell in love with places like Madison Conn and Portsmouth, NH. Halfway between New York City and Boston, Madison attracts a sophisticated mix of professionals as well as a growing community of artists. They frequent the town’s independent boutiques and family-owned restaurants, most of which are housed in the two-story shingled and redbrick buildings dating from the 1930s that line Main Street. Henry Bacon, the architect of the town library, went on to create the Lincoln Memorial.If you are fortunate enough to visit this beautiful town and bookshop, may I suggest for the letter that you buy and read Ann Patchett’s RUN? The novel remains on my short list of favorite books. Author, Ann Patchett also owns a bookstore in Nashville, TN. If you have an extra moment read another blog post I wrote about Ann Patchett and her amazing novel, RunCLICK HERE

I’ll leave you with a few lines from this novel that is why I love this book. Father Sullivan is one of the wonderful characters in the book. Hard not to be touched by his thoughts….

“It would be incorrect in every sense to say that so near the end of his life he had lost his faith, when in fact God seemed more abundant to him in the Regina Cleri home than any place he had been before. God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees…now that he should be sensing the afterlife like a sweet scent drifting in from the garden, he had started to wonder if there was, in fact, no afterlife at all….What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy.”

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Q – Quail Ridge Books – Raleigh, NC

WELCOME to the letter Q and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

4209 Lassiter Mill Road
Raleigh, North Carolina
Call (919) 828-1588
North Hills is a mixed-use development located in midtown Raleigh, NC  that includes stores, restaurants, entertainment, commercial offices, residential living and a continuing care retirement community. The Commons area frequently features live concerts, festivals, and a farmers’ market. It’s a fabulous destination if for no other reason than a great bookstore – Quail Ridge Books – A  new location for a store that is a mecca for avid readers that count on a discerning selection of books across the spectrum. You can count on a staff that knows its books. My latest visit exceeded any book budget  I may have gone in with.  There was my list and then the books recommended to me by a staffer that said,  “If you like this author, you will like…….” I love Quail Ridge Books!

I’d also recommend a restaurant, Coquette,   a few blocks away that tops off a wonderful bookstore experience. In great weather, the floor to ceiling doors are opened and the view of the towering downtown buildings loom on the horizon.  With a bag of books at my feet, the view, and menu, I am transported to a cosmopolitan state of mind not to be missed.

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P – Port Richmond Books – Philadelphia, PA

WELCOME to the letter P and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

Port Richmond Books
3037 Richmond Street – Philadelphia, PA         215-870-5422                        

One of my favorite hats that I wear is serving on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount, NC. When I discovered that Port Richmond Books is located in an old movie theater, I became an instant supporter. I will admit that I subtract points for disorder when walking into a bookstore.  I prefer an organized and easy to negotiate place with leeway for old, over-stuffed chairs, and creaky wooden floors. The location of  Port Richmond made up for the disorder that comes with the territory.  I love imagining walking past a great mystery section, piles of Tolkien, and the crowded office of owner Greg Gillespie’s to the room where audiences watched Laurel and Hardy. Now it is filled with books of every description and for occasional readings and book signings.

Let me encourage you to open a bookstore on your Main Street USA where old, wonderful buildings are waiting for a new life. How about rescuing a historic house before it is too late built with high-quality materials. There are economic advantages to locating businesses, like a bookstore, or an antique store, or small start-ups in older buildings. Port Richmond’s old movie theater is part of Philadelphia’s tangible past, providing opportunities for the future and the economy. A city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of their heritage and a bookstore in an old theater spells p- e- r- f-e- c- t to me. Put a bookstore in one of your great old buildings and people will love the vestiges of its past uses and forgive the awkward spaces, that fill the needs of today.


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O – The Old Town Bookshop – Edinburgh, Scotland

WELCOME to the letter O and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS
8 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2HG, Scotland
+44 131 225 9237

I can close my eyes and walk once again down Princess Street in Edinburgh on my way to Laura Ashley to buy a plaid jumper and blouse (2T) for my first grandchild.  Then on to St. Mary’s Church where I found the painting I was looking for with a fascinating story. The painting is called The Presence. Later I was given a print copy of the painting, which hangs on a wall and means the world to me. If only I had turned in at The OLD TOWN BOOKSHOP,  booksellers of antiquarian maps, prints, Scottish material, and fine art monographs. The bookshop is situated in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town in a 16th-century medieval granary store originally used to supply Edinburgh Castle. Nearby is St. Giles’ Cathedral, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and the castle itself, providing settings for some of Scotland’s best writers including R.L.S. Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.

Edinburgh thinks of itself as the first city of literature. You know some of its famous writers, Robert Burns, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle along with contemporary writers, JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Iain Rankin who sets his Inspector Rebus detective series in the city.

Start your bookshop tour in Edinburgh with The Old Town Bookshop who cater to the literary enthusiast and well-read tourist since 1978 with an eclectic range of books and art. On to Elvis Shakespeare where you will find selected literature and music. Local poets, authors or musicians are found debuting their work. Analogue Books on Candlemaker Row specializes in unique books of art and graphics and magazines on various themes. Armchair Books is a comfortable, worn-in bookshop lined from floor to ceiling with fiction and antiquarian books. World Power Bookshop probably isn’t my cup of tea but is known for its selection of left-wing, activist reading, but this is a good place to find local Scottish publishers.

You can join thousands of book lovers at the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival in this beautiful city and explore other unique, independent bookshops specializing in their owner’s interests. I will leave you with, Robert Burns who will have you putting the book world of Edinburgh on your travel/bookstore list.

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N – The Notting Hill Bookstore – London

WELCOME to the letter N and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

This independent bookshop, renowned for its travel book section was the inspiration for the 1999 romantic comedy, made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the film, Notting Hill. Here we find someone who knows his books along with a quirky sales assistant that fits right in with the specialized inventory. Quite apart from travel, The Notting Hill Bookshop offers an extensive range across most categories of publishing and is proud of its’ broad range of children’s books. I hope as you make your way to visit the store that the seasons will change before your eyes as they do in the film, which puts me in mind of the seasons that come and go in our reading lives.  When in London, most visit Harrod’s or the Victoria and Albert Museum, but you and I are headed to Notting Hill in pursuit of our passion….books!

I want to tuck into this post one of the books in the British Library Crime Classics series from Poisoned Pen Press. I’m never sure if I am buying the books for their fabulous book jackets or for the golden age mysteries they are reintroducing. (You might know that this jacket isn’t the best example of all the fabulous covers.)  The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams was first published between 1862 and 1863 as an eight-part serial in a magazine. The story is told by insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who is building a case against the sinister Baron R, suspected of murdering his wife.

Presented in the form of diary entries, letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses and a crime scene map, the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s. I’m sure you can find the British Crime Classics at The Notting Hill Bookstore.

Please take a minute to watch this wonderful short scene where Grant discourages Roberts from buying a book. CLICK HERE



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M – Mystery Book Stores

WELCOME to the letter M and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

If I had a bookstore I would make all the mystery novels hard to find.
Demetri Martin

It was not until after my mother died that I picked up one of her mysteries and discovered what I’d been missing. Though I read a lot of different genres, I count among my treasured friends the Inspectors I keep company with between the pages of a mystery book. As for stand-alone mystery bookstores, well, pure delight. The next best thing for mystery lovers is a room entirely dedicated to a discerning selection of mystery writers found in our favorite independent bookstores. Next time you go looking for mysteries, I highly recommend you take this short list with you and introduce yourself to my esteemed Inspector friends:  Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache series set in and around Quebec. Donna Leon’s series set in Venice Itlay with wonderful Commissario Guido Brunetti, Martin Walkers series set in St. Denis France with Bruno, the Chief of Police, and Christopher Fowler’s series featuring The Peculiar Crime Unit of Scotland Yard with Investigators, Arthur Bryant, and John May. This list is my thank you for reading this year’s blog challenge theme and following my blog. You will forever think of me as your best friend who got you hooked on these well written…it doesn’t get any better than these…..mystery writers.

119 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT               802-258-2211

Mystery on Main Street bookshop is near the New Hampshire and Massachusetts borders. Here are hard to find books, classics like Conan Doyle and contemporary writers. How could I resist celebrating a mystery bookstore on Main Street? I also write a  blog, Mainstreetrockymount.com, (honoring the past and building a future) where I champion preservation and the revitalization of Main Street.

Main Street Brattleboro, VT

I chuckled when I read a quote by Greg Bruss who once owned Mysteries and More in Nashville, TN. He said, “I’m very happy if someone dies in the first paragraph.” I wonder if Mr. Bruss would like the opening line from a mystery by Julia Spenser-Fleming?

“It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby.” This observation by a female Episcopal priest who finds a baby on the church steps after a vestry meeting. Let the mystery begin. If you have a favorite mystery bookstore, I hope you will mention it in the comment section below for the benefit of fellow mystery readers. Thanks!




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L – Leakey Bookshop – Inverness, Scotland

WELCOME to the letter L and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

The preservation of historic structures is of great interest to me and so the idea of a bookshop located in Greyfriar’s Hall, which was once St. Mary’s Gaelic Church in Inverness Scotland, is a place I would like to spend hours in. The church was first built in the 17th century and later reconstructed in several periods during the 19th century, Much of the original church framework remains, and the Leakey Bookshop, established in 1979, added an iron spiral staircase to connect the two stories of bookshelves. Leakey’s is Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop with 100,000 selected volumes, including old and rare copies, as well as antique maps located on the second floor of the building. There are exhibits of local art. With a wood fire, we can sit down at the bistro-style cafe for a delicious home-cooked meal or a cup of tea.


Let us browse, finding a variety of books on Scottish history, as well as novels and poetry, that are written by some of the U.K.’s most famous residents. Leakey recommends Evelyn Waugh or Robert Louis Stevenson, calling Stevenson a “great writer and a great man.”



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K – Kroch’s and Brentano’s – Paying Tribute

WELCOME to the letter K and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

I grew up with books and many of them were brought home by my father from Kroch’s and Brentano’s, the largest bookstore in Chicago and at one time the largest privately owned bookstore chain in the United States. Though closed in 1995, it remains an important part of Chicago’s book history and also to the little girl within me who read and cherished Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincqutee.I want to pay tribute to Kroch’s because they introduced to the bookstore world an amazing template that to this day is used.

Adolph Kroch, an Austrian immigrant to Chicago, first founded a German-language bookstore in 1907 and later bought out Brentano’s bookstore and merged them into Kroch’s & Brentano’s. Adolph Kroch’s son, Carl Kroch, later took over the business, at a large location on South Wabash Avenue pictured above. Carl Kroch set out to create a new kind of bookstore: light, airy, and comfortable. He realized the selling power of book jackets, so he designed special shelves that tilted to display the books’ full covers, not just their spines. He believed in a partnership between publishers and booksellers, and when his colleague Richard L. Simon, co-founder of Simon & Schuster, told him about a new idea he had for book pricing, Kroch encouraged him to give it a try. Simon recognized that toothpaste selling for 79 cents appeared to be a bargain in comparison to 80-cent toothpaste. He priced his company’s books at $4.95, $7.95, and $14.95 that remains the standard industry practice.

Kroch’s and Brentano’s was said to have the finest selection of art books in the region, and its sales clerks were recognized for their vast knowledge on the subject. One such individual was Henry Tabor, who ran the art department.  The flagship store at 29 S. Wabash had several distinct departments including one run by Alice (Morimoto) Goda which was a mail order center that tracked down obscure out-of-print titles for customers around the world. The store frequently exhibited noted painters’ and photographers’ work on the walls and regularly hosted book signings by major authors. In writing my 2nd novel, Facing East, I honored this flagship store with several scenes worked into the story in thanksgiving for the childhood books purchased at the store. The last of the stores finally closed July 31, 1995.

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J – Brian Jacques – A Bookshop’s Favorite Author

WELCOME to the letter J and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

As readers, we have our favorite authors, favorite books, and favorite bookstores. I want to pay tribute to author Brian Jacques in this post for the letter J. Any bookstore worth its salt can place the Redwall series in your hands. Though Jacques died in 2011, he continues to bring customers through the door in search of Redwall.

 “I love book signings: kids waiting in line for you to scribble on their new books, haha!”
― Brian Jacques

Garnering generations of readers, Brian Jacques, the author of Redwall (1987) and some 20 sequels have sold in the tens of millions touching adventure-loving kids all over the world. His formula—a quasi-medieval fantasy setting in which peace-loving mice and other small animals seek adventure and fend off endless attacks by evil foxes, rats, and weasels is an older child’s classic read like A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter for younger readers. Next time you are in a bookstore, bring home a copy of this book and read it before giving it to a child in your life.

CLICK HERE to view a charming animated clip from the Redwall series

“In our imaginations, we can go anywhere.                                                                                       Travel with me to Redwall in Mossflower country.” ― Brian Jacques

For you book collectors:  The 10th Anniversary celebration of Redwall in 1997, the original publisher of the series, Hutchinson, re-released Redwall in a special collector’s edition in the UK. The hardcover book was bound in green leather with a pictorial front board and included new illustrated color plates. The book also retained Gary Chalk‘s original chapter illustrations. It is sometimes referred to as the “Redwall Illustrated Collector’s Edition”.


If you have a favorite author whose last name begins with J, and can be found in most bookstores, please share it below in the Leave a Comment section. Thank you.

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I – mc I ntyre’s Bookstore – Pittsboro, NC

WELCOME to the letter I and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

I’m an only child and have been known to bend a rule now and then. This is one of those times. I’m saving the letter M for Mystery Bookstores, but I have to write about McIntyre’s which is “down the road a piece” from Chapel Hill, NC. Therefore, I am playing down MC and playing up the letter I.  This is an amazing destination for book lovers…. as rewarding an experience as playing golf at Pinehurst, NC or sitting in the Dean Dome on UNC’s campus to watch a basketball game. Here is a staff who KNOWS books. Click Here: for a quick Video

In Fearrington Village, where McIntyre’s is located, you find a crown jewel situated in the countryside of Chatham County with a five-star inn, surrounding shops, gardens and the famous belted cows that look like saddle shoes. With your bag of books sitting at your feet, you can enjoy a meal under a pergola, the bees humming in the nepeta. This is peace.

Whenever I can visit McIntyre’s,  I always head to the room housing one of the best mystery selections available. Books in hand, I wander into the enchanting children’s section. But in my estimation,  I feel the heart of the store beats behind the counter where you will find Keebe Fitch, manager, and Pete Mock, the mystery expert, or Sarah Carr, the children’s guru. Here a running dialogue takes place, questions answered, books recommended, the love of a favorite author shared. This fabulous environment offers the camaraderie only book lovers share.

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H – Hay-on-Wye Bookstores – Wales

WELCOME to the letter H and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

Often described as the “the town of books,” – “Hay,” is a small market town and community in the historic county of Brecknockshire in Wales.
Take a minute and watch this youtube video for a visual introduction to a place where bookstores abide.            Click Here:

Here is a quote from Paul Collins’ book that I highly recommend for everyone who loves books.  Sixpence House-Lost in a town of books. “In the bookshops, you will find “in stacks, in boxes, on shelves, on slippery collapsed snowdrifts of paper, and bindings that spill out into the aisles, labeled and unlabeled, priced and unpriced, books, books, books.” 

At one time as many as forty bookshops joined 1500 residents, four groceries, 5 churches, a newsagent and one post office. Which brings me to Richard George William Pitt Booth, (born 12 September 1938), a Welsh bookseller, known for his contribution to the success of Hay-on-Wye, a center for second-hand bookselling. He is also the self-proclaimed “King of Hay”. He arrived in Hay 1962 and the rest of the story predates today’s entrepreneurial world where with an idea, creativity, and hard work, businesses are created in a place the entrepreneur wants to live. Besides Booth’s, there is The Cinema Bookshop, Mark Westwood Books, AddymanBooks, the later not a large shop, but author Paul Collins, who worked at Booth’s, says Westwood has discernable taste behind its selections of old biographies, science texts, and medical journals.Besides the bookstores along Charing Cross Road, I wish we could meet in Hay and buy books!





If you aren’t planning a trip soon to this book mecca, I will leave you with a blurb on the Sixpence House that is a wonderful armchair travel experience.  “For Anglophiles and bibliophiles alike: an entrancingly entertaining book that touches on everything to do with books: publishing, authorship, the antiquarian book business, obscure books reintroduced to a new public, and above all, the town of books: Hay-on-Wye.”


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G – The Grolier Poetry Bookstore – Cambridge, MA

WELCOME to the letter G and to this year’s theme: BOOKSHOPS

The Grolier Poetry Bookstore  6 Plympton St. Cambridge MA 617-547-4648

I used to read poetry to my children when they were young, lines like….Little Orphan Annie came to our house to stay, to wash the cups and saucers and sweep the crumbs away or…. They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace, said Christopher to Alice. Poems about Lincoln and battles and always Longfellow’s,  The Children’s Hour.

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

“The Grolier” is an independent bookstore on Plympton Street near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Its focus today is solely poetry. A small one-room store, it lays claim to being the “oldest continuous bookshop” devoted solely to the sale of poetry and poetry criticism. The Grolier Book Shop was founded in September 1927 by Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie. Louisa Solano purchased and took over its operation in 1974 after Cairnie’s death. The Grolier Book Shop became the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Inc. in 1990. One of my favorite poets, Anais Nin, visited the store. In April 2006 Ms. Solano sold the Grolier Book Shop to Ifeanyi Menkiti, poet, and professor of philosophy at Wellesley College.

The Grolier continues to advance the cause of poetry, expanding on the foundation laid by the previous owners. Part of the store’s mission is to develop further interest in poetry among a wider more diversified audience. Through the sale of poetry books and the organization of poetry events, The Grolier promotes the written and spoken art of poetry and continues to create a nourishing environment for the works of poets. I love poetry and find it a balm for the soul. I’m not sure if my tastes fit with today’s poets and readings, but I am grateful that Grolier’s is holding down the fort when it comes to the genre of poetry.


And then the day came,
 when the risk
 to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

-Anais Nin

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