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Bookstores: A Love Letter

There is an incredible range of quality work being done on TV these days. Despite Hollywood doldrums, at least a handful of genuinely great films are released every year. More music is being made and released than ever; the Internet is always coming up with more ways to enrage, distract, and entertain us.

viral video

In short, the media landscape is as vast as it is varied. Of all those forms, though, books have a special place in my heart. In fact, I am an irredeemable book junky. As much as I love high-quality TV series or movies, there is something about a story being told in my mind, via words and sentences and paragraphs, that can’t be replaced.

Thankfully, Boulder has more than a few great places for lovers of the written word to get their fix. Everyone—from casual to hopelessly addicted readers—can find a spot that caters to their mood.

book addict

From my perspective, the experience of a bookstore can’t be recreated online. Star-based review systems don’t replace trusted word-of-mouth; no algorithm tops a fellow reader chatting about what they like, what you might like. In a time when instant gratification is king, nothing beats finding a book you’ve never read, or have meant to read, or have never heard of in the shelves, and taking it home right away.

Here’s another opinion: for a bookstore to be truly great, they have to at least dabble in used books. Fresh tomes are fantastic; much of the new and rejuvenated work published everyday is worth the price. But there’s a particular thrill to searching over weeks, months, or years and finally finding a used copy of something on your list. It’s like a nerdy version of hunting—trophy heads and taxidermy traded for dog-eared pages and underlined passages.

depp reading

For some, walking into a bookstore can be squirm inducing. Maybe you don’t read much, making you intimidated to talk to those who do. Maybe the number of titles leaves you with what I call “shopper face”—a combo of being overwhelmed and over-stimulated, making for a zombie-like disposition. The reasons are as varied as the texts available.

In any case, Boulder—to paraphrase a fictionalized Doc Holliday—is your reading huckleberry. If you’re hesitant, for instance, take a trip to the Boulder Bookstore; featuring tens of thousands of square feet, hundreds of thousands of books in stock (both new and used), and a friendly staff, it’s a great mix of chain-like organization and independent attention to detail.

boulder bookstore

If you’re looking for a little more quirk, visit the beat book shop; founded in 1990, its newer location mixes enthusiasm with a selection covering everything from quality writing to vinyl records, along with pieces of Boulder’s literary past. Similarly, you might consider Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café—it specializes in poetry but also has fine selections of fiction, as well as an interesting rotation of reading events.

When feeling more adventurous, there’s the category of lovably funky. Take, for example, Red Letter Secondhand Books. Their amazing selection comes largely in forest-like stacks, to the point of needing a machete. If in the mood for more organization but no less endearing chaos, visit The Bookworm. It’s like the TARDIS of Boulder bookshops: inconspicuous, even mundane from outside, but the inside is impossibly big and contains multitudes.

red letter

Here’s the thing: I’m not the type that rails against people who buy books online. I get it. I have done and will continue to do the same myself, on occasion. But if you love reading, writing, and all that comes with them, it’s worth taking time with the places described. Like online outlets, you can have the experience you want, whether highly interactive or completely solitary; unlike online outlets, though, these shops come with a local community of like-minded word junkies. And that’s no small thing.

Reading is an intimate, if reclusive pastime, which is both a strength and drawback. Being face to face with someone who loves, hates, or is indifferent to the works you are, then, becomes that much more important. Books are, after all, about conversation—with an author through his or her words, with others who enjoy the process of interpreting and integrating those words into everyday life. With these shops, retail might be their business, but books are unquestionably their passion. Through robust author events and independent mindsets, they are the literary backbone of our town. And it shows, often in the most wonderful, surprising, and uniquely Boulder ways.

Lee Sarter Lead Culture Blogger
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