Wherever I go and whatever I do, I can’t resist the siren call of a new-to-me bookstore. And if that bookstore happens to be a hip, unexpected treasure — like Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo — who am I to resist a visit?
As others collect snowglobes, postcards or T-shirts from vacations, I collect books. Even if the novel isn’t something I particularly love after finishing, I keep it as a memento of my journey. At New York City’s Strand Bookstore, I picked up a copy of the Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers. In the months since I’ve been home from my city adventures, I haven’t even opened it — but it makes me happy see it and remember standing at a table of new paperbacks, gingerly running my fingers over the covers. New friends I could discover; new worlds I could enter.
But full disclosure, I ultimately chose Tinkers because it wouldn’t add much weight to my already-heaving handbag. (Hey, I don’t tell lies at write meg!)
Several months ago, I was scrolling through Shelf Awareness — a daily e-mail newsletter with news and interesting stories on books and the publishing industry — when I saw a small item on Talking Leaves. Knowing I’d be visiting Spencer’s family there sometime in the near future, I made a mental note to check it out.
As Buffalo’s oldest independent bookstore, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Talking Leaves. When Spencer’s mom Alex was planning our visit, I mentioned that I’d like to visit — but it wasn’t crucial that we go. Sweet and accomodating, Alex made sure we could pop over — only we got there too early. Fresh from a 45-minute flight out of Baltimore, we headed right to Main Street only to learn the store opens at 10 a.m. No matter; we just crossed the street and stepped into Lake Effect Diner, where we all ordered milkshakes. Chocolate and banana for me? Not a bad call.
Once arriving at Talking Leaves, I was immediately in book hog heaven. The store boasts a great mixture of contemporary and literary fiction while also providing the “classics,” which was nice. Warm, cozy and with wonderful natural light from windows at the entrance — including a beautiful stained-glass one — I immediately felt at home.
No independent bookstores exist within a 25-mile radius of my home in Southern Maryland. If there are some? I’ve never heard of them, and it’s rare that I can make it to any of the indie bookstores in D.C. or Virginia. What I’m saying is it’s been a while since I strolled the shelves of a place that wasn’t a corporate megastore, and it was exciting. I have no beef with Borders; I worked there, for goodness sake, and am happy to still have a local bookstore to actually visit. But there is something fun and different about a store that’s completely unique and even boasts local stock. There, books, posters and prints of Buffalo abound.
Spencer, Alex and Levi were great about leaving me to my own devices as I poured through the fiction section, scanning each title with curiosity as I searched for my next great read. My ultimate choice? A beautiful copy of Rachel Ferguson’s The Brontes Went To Woolworths, which came highly recommended by Nymeth. (Her review immediately came to mind when I spotted the book — more than a year after I read her review. Who says book bloggers can’t change the world? Or that a spectacular review can’t influence readers?)
My compadres amused themselves with a resident bookstore cat, who lounged about on a stack of boxes filled with books yet to arrive on shelves. A serious cat lover, Spencer snapped a few shots of him before he sauntered away. Probably to share a love of reading another day.