The Last Bookstore Generation


My daughter’s generation will probably be the last to browse bookstores.

It is a Saturday in August in NYC.  She will be starting 5th grade in a few weeks.  My phone says it is 94 degrees outside, but with the heat index it is supposed to feel like 107.  I have my heart set on a trip to the bookstore. 

The Barnes and Noble in Forest Hills that we used to go to closed last January. I just found out the one at 53rd and Lex closed too.  So today we go to Union Square.   We will buy our treasures, and then take them to the Coffee Shop and read while we eat. It is a tradition. 

She wants to read the March Series by John Lewis.  She is a huge graphic novel fan, and also a fan of historical fiction.  This is a graphic novel series written by Congressman John Lewis, chronicling his experiences in the civil rights movement. It has gotten fabulous reviews. 

But when we get to the store, we find out that book 1 in the series is out of stock.   I could have, should have checked online first.  There is an app for that.  Or I could just buy it on Amazon.   Everyone buys books on Amazon.

We wander through the Young Readers’ section  She squeals when she sees the new Babysitter Club on the shelf.  I try futilely to reach the display copy, but it is out of reach.  Then we find one on the shelf below.   Then she finds BGF, and proclaims that she wants to read it before she sees the movie.   I think it is always a good idea to read a book before a seeing the movie.  

Over by the  biography section she squeals again.   She wants Who is Hillary Clinton?  She has read quite a few books from the Who is series.   I have been a Bernie fan since the days that he was Mayor of Burlington.   I told her last winter that I would vote for Bernie in the primary. And Hillary in the general election in November.   But there were times over these long, strange months that I really thought Bernie had a chance.   I will vote for Hillary, of course.   But with a bit of sadness.

Of course she can have the book.

Finally it is my turn to look for books.  We take the escalator up and up.  As we turn the corner, we pass by Trump’s America:  A Complete Loser’s Guide.  She grabs it off the shelf,  giggling at the title.   She asks if we can share it.  If we can take turns reading it.   I agree before I see the price.  I consider backing down.  But I flip through it.  It does look like fun.


On the top floor I head for the Sci Fi section to feed my inner nerd.  I like read Sci Fi.  Not so much “fantasy.”  I don’t know why they are grouped together, as if they were a single genre.  

A number of my friends has recently posted about the limited number of women of color in the science fiction field.  I am pretty sure the only black woman Sci Fi writer I know is Otavia Bulter. I think I might look for something by her.  Have you read Kindred?  If not, you should.  


But as I look through the shelves, I find myself longing for something like the Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson.   Probably my favorite Sci Fi series of all time.  I feel the urge to read some piece of superlative dystopian fiction.  Something that poses challenging ethical questions.  I want great character development.  Good science.  Space travel would be nice.  Maybe some evil megacorporations.  An epic series in which I can lose myself.  

Something random catches my eye and I grab it.  My daughter is getting restless. She is eager to head to the Coffee Shop and open up her new books.  

On the way back to the elevator I see Purple Hibiscus by Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and grab it on impulse.  


I spent more than I planned to.  But I am feeling indulgent.  Binging before an impending fast. Celebrating an era that is about to end. I wonder how many more bookstore days there will be. Ever.    

We pack up our treasures and take them to the Coffee Shop on Union Square.  She orders her root beer float and takes out the Babysitter’s Club, and that is the last time I see her face until it is time to go.  We had a few more errands to run.  In Burlington Coat Factory she talks me into buying a ridiculous arm pillow by convincing me it would be so great for reading in bed.  I acquiesce.  I am feeling a little sentimental today.  We haul the pillow and the bags onto the R train.  She pulls out the Babysitter’s Club again, and is almost finished with it by the time we hit Jackson Heights. 



Her children will almost certainly never have days like this.   Their books will be digitally downloaded. Perhaps into their neural implants.   Who knows what the future will bring.



I like books.  I like the feel of a book in my hand.  It is probably better for the environment to read digital books.  Fewer trees killed.  Less clutter at home.  But I still like to touch books. And I still like trips to bookstores.

I know that most of the visitors to are avid readers too.  You are part of the smart demographic.  You read stuff on the internet to compliment, not replace other sources of information. But I assume that most of you buy your books on .  Like normal people do. 


I am finally monetizing this website.  I put a lot of thought into it.  And I decided to go with because everyone on earth seems to use it.  And I decided to focus on three areas: 

  • Stuff You Should be Reading
  • Recycled/Fair Trade Stuff
  • Feeding Your Inner Nerd 

Eventually I am going to have a store on this site, recommending stuff.  I am also going to integrate suggestions for stuff in posts that I write.  For example, if I am writing about Central American politics, I might link I, Rigoberta Menchu, the autobiography of the Guatemalan indigenous woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Or Open Veins of Latin America.  I was actually surprised to see Open Veins listed at Barnes and Nobel as one of the “staff suggestions.”  It is an old book. But it is not dated.  In an article about international relations, I might promote Chomsky.  In a piece about Islamaphobia, I might share one of my daughter’s favorite books, I am Malala.  



I am most excited about the book stuff right now.  I hope you are too.  Go ahead and follow some of the links if they interest you.  This post has a pretty random selection.  Just a snapshot of a very personal book shopping experience.  But maybe some of the titles appeal to you.  It is not quite the same experience as wandering around a bookstore, and making random discoveries. Picking up the book in your hands, feeling the weight, reading the back cover.  But there are the links to related books that other people bought.  It is a different browsing experience.  

But it is our future.  So go ahead and click.