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."

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Rise and Fall of 5 Claimed Mediums

Boston Public Library // Public Domain
Boston Public Library // Public Domain

In the late 19th and early 20th century, spiritualism was all the rage. People were looking for answers and comfort after the Civil War, so they turned to mediums and séances for spiritual guidance. The religious movement had such a pull that even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a believer. Despite its popularity, many debunkers argued that it had little legitimacy—alleged mediums were con artists who took advantage of the emotionally vulnerable and drained them of all their funds. Perhaps most surprising of all is that what turned into an enormous religious following started out as a simple prank pulled by two preteen girls.

1. THE FOX SISTERS

The Fox Sisters
Emma Hardinge Britten, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In late March of 1848, Margaret Fox, a farmer’s wife living in Hydesville, New York, with her daughters, began to hear noises. These knocking sounds, she decided, could not have been human and certainly were not produced by her children. The mysterious banging became so maddening that she invited her neighbor in to hear for herself. Although skeptical, the neighbor humored the woman and huddled into a small room with Margaret and her two young girls, Maggie and Kate. The mother would ask questions that would be answered with a series of knocks, or as they would later be called, “rappings.” By the end of the night, both the mother and neighbor were convinced that Maggie and Kate were mediums, with the ability to communicate with the other side.

Soon their older sister, Leah Fox Fish, in Rochester, New York, got involved. Hearing of the girls’ otherworldly “powers,” the eldest sister saw dollar signs and promptly booked sessions for people looking to communicate with the dead. Their act took off, and soon the girls were touring the country. Maggie eventually found love while on the road, and settled down with an adventurer named Elisha Kent Kane. Kane convinced her to give up spiritualism, which she did until his untimely death in 1857. Meanwhile, Kate married a fellow spiritualist and fine-tuned her act. She was so successful in her deception that respected chemist William Crookes wrote in The Quarterly Journal of Science in 1874 that he thoroughly tested Kate and was convinced the sounds were true occurrences and not a form of trickery.

The façade went on for decades, until 1888 when Maggie finally spoke up. After her husband had died, she was left penniless and alone, and had turned to drinking. She wrote a letter to the New York World confessing her and her sister’s trickery prior to a demonstration at the New York Academy of Music. “I have seen so much miserable deception! Every morning of my life I have it before me. When I wake up I brood over it. That is why I am willing to state that Spiritualism is a fraud of the worst description,” she wrote.

She then explained that the mysterious thumping was the result of an apple tied to a string that the sisters would drop to torment their mother. At the New York Academy of Music, with her sister Kate in the audience, Maggie demonstrated her tricks to a raucous crowd of skeptics and staunch believers. She put her bare foot on a stool and showed how she could bang the stool with her big toe, producing the famous rapping noise. The Spiritualist world took a hit, but continued to persist. The same could not be said for the Fox sisters' careers. Although Maggie recanted her confession a year later—likely due to her poverty—the sisters were never trusted again and they both died penniless.

2. THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS

Photograph of the Davenport Brothers in front of their spirit cabinet
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Fox sisters may have burned out by the end of their career, but that didn't stop a slew of copy-cats and spin-off performers. Ira and William Davenport of Buffalo, New York, were inspired by the rappings of the Fox sisters and decided to try a session of their own with their father. Their session was so chilling (they would later claim their sister actually levitated) that they decided to make a show. In 1855, 16-year-old Ira and 14-year-old William got on stage for the first time. With the help of their spirit guide, a ghost named Johnny King, they performed a number of elaborate tricks that went past simple rappings; often bells, cabinets, ropes, and floating instruments would be utilized in the performance. Members of the audience would swear they saw instruments fly over their heads, or feel ghostly hands on their shoulders. The brothers were heralded as true mediums and enjoyed fame for the rest of their professional careers. After William passed away in 1877, Ira gave up the medium business for a quieter life.

He was not heard from again until magician Harry Houdini sought him out years later. The two became friends and Ira let him in on a few of his tricks, including one called "The Tie Around the Neck" that not even Ira’s children knew. The surviving Davenport told Houdini all about the tricks and trouble that went into keeping their secret, including reserving the front row for their friends and hiring numerous accomplices. Interestingly, some of their greatest tricks didn’t involve any work. Reports of flying instruments and mysterious sensations were purely delusions of the audience members. “Strange how people imagine things in the dark! Why, the musical instruments never left our hands yet many spectators would have taken an oath that they heard them flying over their heads,” Davenport told Houdini.

3. EVA CARRIÈRE

A photo of Eva Carrière regurgitating ectoplasm
Boston Public Library // Public Domain

Now armed with the secrets of the Davenport Brothers, as well as his own experiences as a medium in his younger days, Houdini set out to expose fraudulent mediums throughout the 1920s. He had initially believed that although it was all fake, it didn't harm anyone. The death of his mother made him realize the harm these fraudsters were really doing, and so Houdini set out to reveal their tricks. One such huckster was Eva Carrière.

As detailed in Houdini’s book, A Magician Among the Spirits, Carrière was a medium known for her ability to produce a mysterious substance called ectoplasm from a number of orifices. Carrière, with the help of her assistant and alleged lover Juliette Bisson, would be stripped down and searched to prove there was nothing on her person. She would then let Bisson put her in a trance, where Houdini said he was certain she was truly asleep. After some time, she would conjure up ectoplasm from her mouth that looked “like a colored cartoon and seemed to have been unrolled.” Houdini left feeling underwhelmed and unconvinced.

Still, Carrière seemed to hold many in her trance. A researcher named Albert von Schrenck-Notzing spent several years—1909 to 1913—working with her, and by the end, he was completely convinced. He published his findings and photographs in his book Phenomena of Materialisation. Ironically, this book ended up being Carrière's undoing: A skeptic named Harry Price wrote that the pictures proved that the faces seen in the medium’s ectoplasm were actually regurgitated cut-outs from the French magazine Le Miroir.

4. ANN O’DELIA DISS DEBAR

Ann O’Delia Diss Debar had gone through many monikers and identities in her lifetime, but according to Houdini [PDF], she started as Editha Salomen, born in Kentucky in 1849 (others claim she was named Delia Ann Sullivan and born in 1851). She left home at 18 and somehow convinced the high society of Baltimore that she was of European aristocracy. “Where the Kentucky girl with her peculiar temperament and characteristics could possibly have secured the education and knowledge which she displayed through all her exploits I am at a loss to understand,” Houdini wrote. Regardless, Salomon was extremely successful in her con artistry and managed to cheat Baltimore’s wealthiest out of a quarter million dollars. Claiming that funds were tied up in foreign banks, it was easy to drain potential suitors out of money and luxury.

After a quick stint at an insane asylum for trying to kill a doctor, Salomen took up hypnotism and married a man of slow wit named General Diss Debar. As Ann O’Delia Diss Debar and a general’s wife (although modern scholarship says that he wasn't a general and they weren't ever actually married), she found that people were eager to trust her. She took advantage of this trust when she met a successful lawyer named Luther R. Marsh, who had just lost his wife. After convincing him that she was a skilled medium, Diss Debar persuaded him to turn over his home on Madison Avenue, which she then turned into a spiritualistic temple and successful business. The swindler created spirit paintings, which, through sleight of hand, seemed to appear out of nowhere on blank canvases, as if the spirits painted them.

These paintings eventually landed Diss Debar in legal trouble when Marsh invited the press to come and see them. In 1888, the so-called medium was hauled into court for deceiving Marsh and swindling him out of house and home. Many testified against Diss Debar, including her own brother, but the most convincing participant was professional Carl Hertz, who was called in to disprove her trickery. With ease, he replicated each of Diss Debar’s tricks, and performed some that not even she could do. Satisfied that the woman was a fraud, the state incarcerated her for six months at Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island).

Despite all this, Marsh continued to believe in spiritualism. Unfortunately for Diss Debar, he seemed like the only one—she attempted to resurrect her career, but was unsuccessful, later being hauled back into court for charges of debt a year after her release. She traveled between London and America for years, going in and out of prison, before finally disappearing for good in 1909.

As Houdini put it harshly:

“Ann O’Delia Diss Debar’s reputation was such that she will go down in history as one of the great criminals. She was no credit to Spiritualism; she was no credit to any people, she was no credit to any country—she was one of these moral misfits which every once in awhile seem to find their way into the world. Better for had she died at birth than to have lived and spread the evil she did.”

5. MINA CRANDON

Mina Crandon in 1924
Malcolm Bird, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the 1920s, Mina Crandon (also known as Margery, or the Blonde Witch of Lime Street) was one of the most well-known and controversial mediums of her time. Born in Canada to a farmer, Margery moved to Boston and took up a number of careers, working as a secretary, an actress, and an ambulance driver. After divorcing her first husband, she married Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon, a surgeon who studied at Harvard. It was the doctor who introduced her to spiritualism and eventually led her down the path to becoming a medium.

Margery was a friendly, pretty woman, but the ghost of her brother Walter was much less charming. The medium would conjure his spirit, who would then rap out messages, tip over tables, and yell at the participants. Often ectoplasm would ooze from her ears, nose, mouth, and dress. The mysterious substance sometimes took the form of a hand and supposedly rang bells or touched the participants. Her performance was so convincing that it attracted the Boston elite and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As her popularity soared, her prayers were even read by the U.S. Army.

In 1923, Harry Houdini joined a panel of scientists formed by The Scientific American to find a true medium. The prize for convincing them was $5000. The panel was quite convinced with Margery and was gearing up to give her the money for her legitimacy. Houdini wanted to take a look at the medium for himself, and in 1924, headed to Boston.

When the séance began, Houdini sat next to Margery with their hands joined and feet and legs touching. Earlier that day, the skeptic had worn a bandage around his knee all day, making it extremely sensitive to the touch. The heightened sensitivity helped him feel Margery move as she used her feet to grab various props during the act. After figuring out the scheme, Houdini was convinced of the fraud and wanted to go public. Despite his confidence, the rest of the panel remained uncertain, putting off the decision. By October, The Scientific American published an article explaining the panel was hopelessly divided. The hesitation angered both Houdini and Margery’s spirit. “Houdini, you goddamned son of a bitch,” Walter screamed. "Get the hell out of here and never come back. If you don't, I will."

By November, Houdini circulated a pamphlet called Houdini Exposes the Tricks Used by the Boston Medium "Margery." He then put on performances recreating Margery’s tricks for the amusement of skeptics. Humiliated and without prize money, Margery made a prediction in 1926. “Houdini will be gone by Halloween,” Walter declared. Coincidentally, Houdini did die that October 31 from peritonitis.

Margery and her prickly ghost brother may have gotten the last laugh, but by 1941, her reputation was in ruins from Houdini’s mockery. Still, she never confessed to her trickery, even on her deathbed.

Additional sources: Houdini, Harry. A Magician Among the Spirits. New York: Arno, 1972.

This story originally ran in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER