21 Writers On Their Favorite Bookstores

Lynn Friedman, Flickr //  CC BY NC-ND 2.0
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

We all have our favorite spots for browsing the latest titles and uncovering hidden gems, but who better to share their picks of most beloved bookstores than the authors whose names appear on those hallowed store shelves. Spoiler: It's a very tough choice to make. 

1. HANYA YANAGIHARA // AUTHOR OF A LITTLE LIFE

"Three Lives & Company, in New York's West Village, is the kind of tiny, cheery bookshop that exists only in movies, and that people come to New York hoping to find (well, I did). If you go at 5 p.m. on any weekend, there's a lovely, two-glasses-of-rosé kind of intimacy that settles in, an impromptu salon of regulars, the very well-read bookselling staff, and tourists all talking books."

2. AND 3. HOLLY BLACK AND CASSANDRA CLARE // AUTHORS OF THE MAGISTERIUM SERIES

Black: "That’s a tough question. I am lucky enough now to live in a place where there are a lot of great local bookstores. There’s Amherst Books, which is right down the street from me and always has books I never find anywhere else. There’s Odyssey Books, which has a fantastic children and young adult section and people ready to recommend great things, and then a bit further from town, there’s a used bookstore near a waterfall, called The Book Mill. It’s a great store and I particularly love their slogan: 'Books You Don’t Need In a Place You Can’t Find.'"

Clare: "It’s a tie between Books of Wonder, because that’s where I bought children’s books while I was in college, and Hatchards in London, because that’s where the characters in Georgette Heyer’s novels buy their books."

4. POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR // AUTHOR OF THE LAST ILLUSION

marfa book co storefront
Monica D., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"It’s a tie between Marfa Book Company in Marfa, Texas, for its good looks, and Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, for sentimental reasons (my first Faulkner pilgrimage when I was in college)."

5. MALLORY ORTBERG // AUTHOR OF TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE

"Feldman's in Menlo Park, California, because it's where I discovered Shirley Jackson by accident my junior year in high school."

6. AND 7. HEATHER COCKS AND JESSICA MORGAN // AUTHORS OF THE ROYAL WE

Morgan: "We had an event for The Royal We at Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C., and I fell in love. Not just because they have a bar, but—they have a bar! And it's open 24 hours! And the staff is awesome! If I lived in D.C., I would literally spend all of my money there. Take my money, Kramerbooks!"

Cocks: "Kramerbooks is one of my favorites too. There's also an amazing place in downtown Los Angeles called The Last Bookstore. It's most famous for the labyrinth of $1 books on the mezzanine, which features an actual tunnel you can walk through. It's just beautiful."

8. MEGAN ABBOT // AUTHOR OF THE FEVER

"If I can qualify it as my favorite bookstore-for-whom-my-debt-is-the-greatest, it’d be Murder by the Book in Houston, its extraordinary owner McKenna Jordan, and its brilliant booksellers. They serve as one of the great beacons of light in the crime-fiction community. And they always recommend the best books to me. I never leave empty-handed, whether it’s Sally pressing Ben H. Winters’s novels into my hands or John sending me a long-out-of-print sensation novel (Mary Braddon’s The Face in the Glass)."

9. SARAH VOWELL // AUTHOR OF LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES

Country Bookshelf interior
N i c o l a, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"Country Bookshelf in my hometown of Bozeman, Montana, for bogarting my babysitting money throughout my formative years; Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.; Elliott Bay in Seattle; Powell's in Portland, Oregon; and an honorable mention to Eslite in Taiwan for making book shopping second only to dumpling eating as Taipei's favorite pastime."

10. LEIGH BARDUGO // AUTHOR OF SIX OF CROWS

"Books and Books in Miami—there's a bar! Drop by Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California, for just a few minutes and you instantly sense how important the store is to the community. Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, has a great crew of local authors, adorable dogs roaming the aisles, and [owner] Ann Patchett."

11. LEILA SALES // AUTHOR OF MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS

"Hatchards, in Piccadilly, London. Because it is old and huge and beautiful, and it feels like a palace of books. (And/or because I am one of those pretentious Americans who just likes British things better.) When my third book was published in the U.K., I got to sign stock at Hatchards, and that was the moment when I finally felt like, 'Wow, I am an author!'"

12. EMMA STRAUB // AUTHOR OF THE VACATIONERS

"I worked at Brooklyn's BookCourt for four years, so I feel an allegiance to them, partly because I already know where everything is. But I also feel devoted to Greenpoint/Jersey City's WORD, because they are the coolest and best, and I also feel devoted to Park Slope's Community, because they are the closest to my house and so I am there most often. How about I choose the Bank Street Children's Bookstore, on the Upper West Side, or Books of Wonder, near Union Square? Oh, Mental Floss. I can't choose."

13. ROXANE GAY // AUTHOR OF BAD FEMINIST

The last bookstore book tunnel
Omaromar, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

"This is a tough choice because there are many I am fond of, but The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. It is such a strange, quirky space that feels different each time."

14. ANN M. MARTIN // AUTHOR OF RAIN REIGN

"The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, New York, is small but carries a wide variety of titles, has a dedicated and involved staff of book lovers, champions local authors, and is a vibrant part of the community, sponsoring many author events. Books of Wonder in New York City is a children's-only bookstore with shelf after shelf of new titles and classics, a special interest in L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, a tantalizing case of old and rare books, and a passionate owner who regularly brings together children's authors and illustrators."

15. RAINA TELGEMEIER // AUTHOR OF SISTERS

green apple bookstore
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

"Just one?! There are so many great bookstores! Books of Wonder in New York, Powell’s in Portland, Green Apple in San Francisco … I’ll give a special shout-out to Kidsbooks in Vancouver, British Columbia. They specialize in children’s books, have amazingly creative window displays, know their customer base inside and out, and put on one of the finest events anywhere in the world. I have never felt like more of a rock-star author than when I visit Kidsbooks!"

16. AVA DELLAIRA // AUTHOR OF LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD

"Ah! Such a hard question. I have many favorite bookstores in different cities I’ve lived in and traveled to. But my first favorite bookstore is a great indie store in Albuquerque called Bookworks, where I’d go to browse during breaks from my first job and discovered many a wonderful title as a high schooler."

17. MARISSA MEYER // AUTHOR OF THE LUNAR CHRONICLES

Joseph Beth booksellers interior
Rich Bowen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"I'd have to go with Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. There's some nostalgia at play—they hosted my first book tour signing when Cinder came out in 2012, and they've thrown spectacular Lunar Chronicles events since then. Last time I was there, they even had TLC-themed cocktails at the cafe, and that sort of attention to detail really blows me away. On top of hosting great events, it's also a lovely, laid-back bookstore with great staff."

18. JAMES PATTERSON // AUTHOR OF THE MURDER HOUSE

"People often ask me what my favorite character is, among all those I’ve created. And I tend to dodge the question a bit, saying—quite truthfully—that it would be like picking a favorite child. It wouldn’t be fair to Lindsay or Rafe or Alex or Michael or Max to say one or the other was my favorite. Bookstores aren’t like children to me, but a similar principle applies. Maybe it’s more like picking a favorite adult family member. There, again, I have too many I love in too many different ways to pick a very favorite. I have great sentiment for my own local bookshop, Classic in Palm Beach. I dig The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, Malaprops in Asheville, and all of the independent stores that I gave grants to last year. And I also am keen on the ones I didn’t get to give grants to last year. I hope to recognize more of them soon. And I am a huge, huge fan of Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million and Hastings for their big focus on books. I am excessively fond of BJ’s, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart, and other general merchandise stores for their innovative and wide presentation of books and their insistence that books be for sale in their stores even when they’re not the flashiest or most lucrative category of goods they sell. And I love e-book sellers too, for carving out a space in people’s screens where, rather than watching a video or seeing what celebrities are doing, you can actually read stories. Basically, if you sell books—if you take time and attention to bring books to people, if you favor what I consider to be one of the greatest cultural developments in human history and continue to make noise and draw people’s attention to it—then I favor you. How’s that for (with great candor, I swear) dodging a politically charged question?"

19. RAINBOW ROWELL // AUTHOR OF CARRY ON

"This is tough, but I'll say Waterstones Piccadilly, because if I'm there, it means I'm in London. Also, I once had an amazing beet salad at the restaurant on the top floor."

20. ELISABETH EGAN // AUTHOR OF A WINDOW OPENS

"Watchung Books in Montclair, New Jersey, is not only my favorite bookstore, it might just be my favorite place other than the Jersey shore. Not only do I love what they sell, I love the buzz of people talking about books and the smell of all those fresh pages. I live right around the corner, so I try to duck into the bookstore as often as possible. I also love walking my dog past the window at night and peering in like a creepy stalker. The sight of all those soldier-straight spines gives me the most delicious sense of peace."

21. KATHERINE APPLEGATE // AUTHOR OF CRENSHAW

"My favorite bookstore? Why not just ask me to pick my favorite child? (And honestly, I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t like.) Still, one of my favorites is Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois. It somehow manages to display a vast and wonderfully curated selection, while staying comfortable and intimate. And the folks who work there are pretty swell."

11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

11 Words That Started Out As Spelling Mistakes

A woman sneezing, which in Middle English would have been called a fneze instead.
A woman sneezing, which in Middle English would have been called a fneze instead.
iStock.com/Dirima

The word irregardless might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying that if you were to use it in a sentence, you’d be perfectly understood—and that’s more than enough evidence for it to have been accepted into many dictionaries (albeit flagged as non-standard or informal), including Oxford Dictionaries, Merriam-Webster, and even the hallowed Oxford English Dictionary, which has so far been able to trace it back as far as 1912. So despite it having its origins in an error, and irregardless of what you might think of it, there’s no denying irregardless is indeed a word—and it’s by no means alone.

1. Expediate

Meaning “to hasten” or “to complete something promptly,” the verb expediate is thought to have been invented by accident in the early 1600s when the adjective form of expedite, meaning “ready for action” or “alert,” was misspelled in an essay by the English politician Sir Edwin Sandys (it was later corrected).

2. Culprit

There are several different accounts of the origin of culprit, but all of them seem to agree that the word was born out of a mistake. Back when French was still the language of the law in England in the Middle Ages (a hangover from the days of the Norman Conquest), the phrase Culpable, prest d’averrer nostre bille—literally “guilty, ready to prove our case”—was apparently the stock reply given by the Clerk of the Crown whenever a defendant gave a plea of not guilty. In the court records, this fairly long-winded phrase was often abbreviated just to cul. prit., and, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “by a fortuitous or ignorant running together of the two,” the word culprit was born.

3. Despatch

Despatch is a chiefly British English variant of dispatch, often used only in formal contexts like the name of the political despatch box in the House of Commons. The e spelling apparently began as a phonetic variation of the original I spelling, but after Samuel Johnson included it in his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, its use was legitimized and thrived in the 19th century. Because Johnson himself preferred the I spelling in his own writings, however, it's supposed that he included the e spelling by mistake and inadvertently popularized the error.

4. Nickname

Nicknames were originally called eke names, with the verb eke used here in the sense of “to make longer” or “to provide an addition.” Sometime in the 13th century, however, “an eke-name” was mistakenly interpreted as “a neke-name,” and the N permanently jumped across from the indefinite article an to the verb eke. The same error—known linguistically as “rebracketing” or “junctural metanalysis”—is responsible for nadders, numpires, and naprons all losing their initial Ns in the Middle English period.

5. Ammunition

Ammunition derives from a faulty division of the French la munition, which was incorrectly misheard as l'amonition by French soldiers in the Middle Ages, and it was this mistaken form that was borrowed into English in the 1600s.

6. Scandinavia

Scandinavia was originally called Scadinavia, without the first N, and is thought to take its name from an island, perhaps now part of the Swedish mainland, called Scadia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the extra N was added in error by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, and has remained in place ever since.

7. Syllabus

If all had gone to plan in the history of the word syllabus, those two Ls should really be Ts: Syllabus was coined as a Latin misreading of an Ancient Greek word, sittybos, meaning “a table of contents.”

8. Sneeze

Oddly, sneeze was spelled with an F and not an S, fneze, in Middle English, which gives weight to the theory that it was probably originally coined onomatopoeically. At least one explanation of why the letter changed suggests that this F inadvertently became an S sometime in the 15th century due to continual misreadings of the long lowercase f as the old-fashioned long S character, ſ.

9. Ptarmigan

The ptarmigan is a bird of the grouse family, found in mountainous and high-latitude environments. Its bizarre name with its initial silent P is something of a mystery, as the original Scots word from which it derives, tarmachan, shows no evidence of it and there’s little reason why one should ever have to have been added to it—except, of course, if it were a mistake. The P spelling first emerged in the late 1600s, and is thought to have been a mistaken or misguided attempt to ally the name to the Greek word for a wing, pteron, and eventually this unusual P spelling replaced the original one.

10. Sherry

Sherry takes its name from the southern Spanish port of Xeres (now Jerez de la Frontera in Cádiz) and was originally known as vino de Xeres, or “wine of Xeres.” This name then morphed into sherris when sherry first began to be talked about in English in the early 17th century, but because of that final S, it didn’t take long for that to be misinterpreted as a plural. Ultimately, a mistaken singular form, sherry, emerged entirely by mistake in the early 1600s.

11. Pea

Another word that developed from a plural-that-actually-wasn’t is pea. One pea was known as a pease in Middle English, but because of that final “s” sound, pease was quickly misinterpreted as a plural, giving rise to a misguided singular form, pea, in the 17th century. The actual plural of pease in Middle English, incidentally, was pesen.

This list first ran in 2016.

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