The Gift of Books: A Writer Turns Bookseller
I’ve been in love with books as long as I can remember. A trip to the library or bookstore continues to be a deep-seeded pleasure. After all, books are filled with answers to every question every person has ever considered. Standing inside a “house of books” feels like an adventure. No wonder I became a writer.
And, now, I am also a bookseller.
There is no better place than within the walls of a bookstore to foster communication and engage our communities. Gramercy Books seeks to be that kind of community builder. Located in the heart of Bexley, Ohio, just minutes from downtown Columbus, Gramercy Books aims to connect readers and writers with books they love, and we plan to host special events and ongoing visits by authors, poets and songwriters that provoke conversation.
We are grateful to be in the bookselling business. Our name, Gramercy, says so. From the French words “grand merci,” which translates to “many thanks” or “big thanks,” we are grateful every moment. For books. For our customers. And for the opportunity to bring readers a place that offers authenticity and connection.
Books count more than ever. It’s not just about the way books transport readers into another place and time. It’s also about the way books offer solace, inspiration and humor. It’s about the way books reveal life outside the headlines, how they illuminate and help to make sense of the world around us. Books give us perspective and insight and hope that we can be better. That we can do better.
Some years ago, I came across an essay in The Chronicle Review, a publication read by the higher education industry, called “Why I Read.” The essay focused on what the author, a writing teacher, does and doesn’t tell his students. I zeroed in on all that he doesn’t tell them (he knew his students would roll their eyes and tune him out). He doesn’t share directly with his students those comments that suggest reading will sensitize them to the human condition because, as he notes, they haven’t lived long enough to know what is meant by the human condition. He says he doesn’t tell his students about the way novels will put them into a world they can feel, how it can startle their senses by enlarging their world when it might grow tight and stale; how reading can seem like a hand on their shoulder when they are sad. He doesn’t tell them that reading can help them see themselves more clearly, that it can help them find themselves when they are lost. He doesn’t tell them that being a human is a very lonely business and that only a few things can ease that loneliness. Loving someone is the best remedy, he does not tell his students. Making music is another form of healing. And so is reading, which he calls “another form of love—an act of faith and trust and desire, an act of reaching out and of coming together.”
Growing up on Columbus’s eastside in the sixties, my life was small and insular. I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood, passing one-story, ranch-style homes on half-acre lots. My elementary school just one block away, I gathered with friends on its playground during what seemed then to be endless afternoons. In the summer of 1964 as I was soon to enter sixth grade, I was more aware of the Beatles latest hit, “A Hard Day’s Night,” than I was about race riots spreading across the country or the bombing of a little country called North Vietnam. Even before I gained a wider freedom with a driver’s license, I spent countless hours in the Bexley Public Library and, later, in Bexley’s recently opened Little Professor Book Center, to escape into the world of books. My universe expanded as I became lost in adventure, discoveries, and new possibilities. I’ve always retained that sense of place and belonging that I felt when entering a store or library filled with books.
While Little Professor Book Center left Bexley in the late 70s, I’m grateful to have partnered with the son of the founders of that store, John Gaylord, in bringing a bookshop back to Bexley. And the fact that Gramercy Books now sits alongside hundreds of other bookstores in our country that continue to thrive brings me an overwhelming feeling of hope.
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War, and won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program. I am now the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore! www.gramercybooksbexley.com