April 1, 2012

Who Needs Foodies When You Have Bookies?

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:12 am

No, not those kind of bookies,the ones who appear in noir novels and tend to tie concrete blocks to their clients’ ankles.

This is a new use of the term.

I thought of it after reading an article in New York Magazine about how foodie-ism has become cool for the twenty-something, hipster set. To paraphrase journalist Michael Idov, donburi and pickled lamb tongues are in. So is spending 25% of one’s paycheck on food.This is not your parent’s golf game or night at the opera.

Hey, I love food as much as the most avid New Yorker. Some have accused me of squandering my children’s college funds on a pint of organic raspberries. But what I really spend money on is books. And while foodie-ism seems to me to hit heights of the ridiculous–saffron foam? bee pollen soot? really?–in much the same way that runway fashion does, books and bookstores seldom do. (Snookie’s advance aside).

Bookstores are places of conversation and stimulation and exchange sufficient to make the most tech-easy twenty-something, who’s able to chat with seven friends at the same time, wide-eyed at the riches. If you look at some of these photos, I think you’ll agree that a bookstore is a pretty cool place to be.

I’d like to see young people, old people, in between people pouring into bookstores the way they pour into restaurants or other sites of leisure.

Make your next date night at a bookstore. It’s cheaper than two movie tickets, and you actually get to take something home. A great way to get to know the guy or girl you’re with, or reconnect with a spouse, is observing what volumes they pick up, and which they walk away with. Over your dinner doused with bee pollen foam, you can talk about your new purchases.

I co-host a writing series at a wonderful independent bookstore, and we try to make our events an awful lot like a party. Food, wine, conversation, mingling after the panel discussion, and of course, books. People have met agents there, editors who want to see their manuscripts, and made writing friends for life.

Because you can have your rosemary biscotti or other foodie treat in a bookstore. Many of them have cafes, and one thing I predict more of is that these cafes will start being destinations of their own, serving not lumpen, over-sweet pastries made elsewhere and shipped in, but delicacies unique to that bookstore’s region.

Perhaps the bookseller will have a friend who’s always wanted to bakeĀ  pastries and the two will marry their businesses (as takes place in author Maryann McFadden’s soon-to-be-released novel about a bookseller and a writer). Or perhaps a restaurant will move in close enough to be kissing cousins with the bookstore-next-door as you have at the great Left Bank Books and Tap House & Wine Bar in St. Louis.

The perfect convergence of trends–social communion, local, homespun food, and deep thinking–can take place at a bookstore in a way that makes them much more than trends.


Lived at a bookstore.

How hip is that?


  1. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart! I love books! I read every minute of the day when I am not working. I read every genre and and while I write sci-fi and fantasy, I LOVE mysteries and thrillers too! I feel so at home in my local book store, adn I am well aquainted with the folks who work there! I also own a kindle and have an amazing number of wonderful books that were exceptionally well written and reasonably priced! Reading is my escape, and my life! When I have nothing to read, I am at loose ends, so that is how I fell into writing – in 1986 I ran out of money to buy books with, and the library couldn’t keep up with me.

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — April 1, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  2. Jenny,
    I’m so glad you gave equal time to the classic bookie, the guys I used to charge with Promoting gambling 2nd degree. Now let’s get down to business. You’ll never catch me downplaying a reverance for food, but I doubt I could live without books either. With no more than a half-dozen TV shows that I watch each week, what else but books and music after dark? Wait a minute, I’m not that old…Very nice article.

    Comment by Wayne Zurl — April 1, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  3. I see nothing about chocolate in this post. Harumph.

    Comment by Judy — April 1, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  4. I’d much rather consume books than braised butt cheeks or whatever is today’s food fad, wouldn’t you? I miss my bookstore SO much and miss those times when it was a happenin’ place. Haven’t really found a good substitute yet but maybe that’s because it actually makes me want to cry when I go into a bookstore here in town, remembering what used to be. Ah well, I’ll get over that one of these days and, in the meantime, I go to stores in places I visit. If bookstores go the way of the dodo, we’ll be the poorer for it, but it won’t be because of people like you and your blog readers, Jenny. Keep fighting the good fight ;)

    Comment by Lelia Taylor — April 1, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  5. Jenny,
    LOVE this!

    Comment by Brenda — April 1, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  6. Thanks, Jenny,
    Local bookstores are awesome. They are great places to see live readings and meet the authors and other readers. I go to readings often and, unfortunately, the crowds seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I hope more “bookies” decide to get out there and reverse this trend :)

    Comment by Frank Mundo — April 1, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  7. Hi everyone :) Thanks for the smiles (braised butt cheeks & bookies–when was the last time you saw those two in the same place?), thanks for the support. Now let’s all get out and head for a bookstore!

    Comment by jenny — April 1, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

  8. If books were sold in places like Whole Foods and those other upscale markets that charge mondo bucks for a jar of olives, we could have our organic Belgian chocolate and read our favorite author at the same time.

    Comment by Nancy Morse — April 2, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  9. Great post, Jenny! I tweeted it. This is an idea I’d love to see catch on!

    Comment by P.L. Blair — April 2, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  10. Most of the bookstores (not all) that I’ve been in lately have cafes, where one can see people sitting at tables with a latte, a tuna salad, and an open book in the hand. It’s a way, yes, for the Indie to diversify and make an extra buck so they can add our own books to the menu. A menu of savory books, hurrah! Thanks, Jenny.

    Comment by Nancy Means Wright — April 2, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

  11. Jenny, next time you’re on Cape Cod drop in at The Bookstore and Restaurant in Wellfleet. It is what it is, with acceptable food and tumble-down ambience but it’s got food and books, and the bay is right across the street.

    Comment by Anita Page — April 2, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  12. Beautiful, Jenny. My bookstore-the one I frequent-is a wonderful place to visit, and I have no problem being a bookie. It’s less fattening :)

    Comment by Lil Gluckstern — April 2, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  13. I would like to add that libraries are also great places. :^)

    Comment by Penelope Marzec — April 4, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

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