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."

10 Juicy Facts About Leeches

Ian Cook
Ian Cook

Leeches get a bad rap, but they’re actually pretty cool once you get to know them—and we're finding out more about them, even today. Recently, a team led by Anna Phillips, curator of parasitic worms at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, discovered a new species of medicinal leech (pictured above) in a Maryland swamp. We asked parasite expert and curator at the American Museum of Natural History Mark E. Siddall to share some surprising facts about the worms we love to hate. 

1. Not all leeches suck blood.

Hematophagous, or blood-feeding, species are only one type of leech. “The vast majority of species are [hematophagous],” Siddall tells Mental Floss, “but it depends on the environment. In North America, there are probably more freshwater leeches that don’t feed on blood than there are blood-feeders.” And even among the hematophagous species, there are not too many who are after you. “Very few of them are interested in feeding on human blood,” Siddall says. “Certainly they’ll do it, if they’re given the opportunity, but they’re not what they’re spending most of their time feeding on.” 

2. Leeches are everywhere.

Japanese leech on a log
Pieria, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

“Every continent on the planet has leeches, with the exception of Antarctica,” Siddall says. “And even then there are marine leeches in Antarctic waters.” Humans have co-existed with leeches for so long, according to Siddall, that just about every language has a word for leech. 

3. Leeches have made a comeback in medicine.

Bloodletting for bloodletting’s sake has fallen out of favor with Western physicians, but that doesn’t mean medicinal leeches are enjoying a cushy retirement. Today, surgeons keep them on hand in the operating room and use them as mini-vacuums to clean up blood. “That is a perfectly sensible use of leeches,” Siddall says. Other uses, though, are less sensible: “The more naturopathic application of leeches in order to get rid of bad blood or to cure, I don’t know, whatever happens to ail you, is complete hooey,” he says. How on Earth would leeches take away bad blood and leave good blood? It’s silly.” 

4. Novelist Amy Tan has her own species of leeches.

Land-based leeches made an appearance in Tan’s 2005 book Saving Fish from Drowning, a fact that instantly put the author in leech researchers’ good graces. “There are not a lot of novels out there with terrestrial leeches in them,” Siddall says. So when he and his colleagues identified a new species of tiny terrestrial leeches, they gave the leech Tan’s name. The author loved it. “I am thrilled to be immortalized as Chtonobdella tanae,” Tan said in a press statement. “I am now planning my trip to Queensland, Australia, where I hope to take leisurely walks through the jungle, accompanied by a dozen or so of my namesake feeding on my ankles.”

5. Leeches can get pretty big.

The giant Amazon leech (Haementeria ghilianii) can grow up to 18 inches and live up to 20 years. And yes, this one’s a blood-feeder. Like all hematophagous species, H. ghilianii sticks its proboscis (which can be up to 6 inches long) into a host, drinks its fill, and falls off. Scientists thought the species was extinct until a zoologist found two specimens in the 1970s, one of whom he named Grandma Moses. We are not making this up.

6. Leeches make good bait.

Many walleye anglers swear by leeches. “A leech on any presentation moves more than other types of live bait," pro fisher Jerry Hein told Fishing League Worldwide. "I grew up fishing them, and I think they're the most effective live bait around no matter where you go." There’s an entire leech industry to provide fishers with their bait. One year, weather conditions kept the leeches from showing up in their typical habitats, which prevented their collection and sale. Speaking to CBS news, one tackle shop owner called the absence of leeches “the worst nightmare in the bait industry.”

7. Leech scientists use themselves as bait.

Siddall and his colleagues collect and study wild leeches. That means hours of trekking through leech territory, looking for specimens. “Whether we’re wandering in water or traipsing through a bamboo forest,” Siddall says, “we are relying on the fact that leeches are attracted to us.” Do the leeches feed on them? “Oh my god, yes. We try to get them before they feed on us … but sometimes, obviously, you can’t help it.”

8. Leech sex is mesmerizing.

Like many worms, leeches are all hermaphroditic. The specifics of mating vary by species, but most twine themselves together and trade sperm packets. (The two leeches in the video above are both named Norbert.)

9. Some leech species make surprisingly caring parents. 

“There’s a whole family of leeches that, when they lay their eggs, will cover them with their own bodies,” Siddall says. “They’ll lay the eggs, cover them with their bodies, and fan the eggs to prevent fungus or bacteria from getting on them, and then when the eggs hatch, they will attach to the parent. They’re not feeding on the parent, just hanging on, and then when the parent leech goes to its next blood meal it’s carrying its offspring to its next blood meal. That’s pretty profound parental care, especially for invertebrates.”

10. You might be the next to discover a new leech species. 

Despite living side-by-side with leeches for thousands of years, we’ve still got a lot to learn about them. Scientists are aware of about 700 different species, but they know there are many more out there. “I’ll tell you what I wish for,” Siddall says. “If you ever get fed on by a leech, rather than tearing off and burning it and throwing it in the trash, maybe observe it and see if you can see any color patterns. Understand that there’s a real possibility that it could be a new species. So watch them, let them finish. They’re not gonna take much blood. And who knows? It could be scientifically useful.”

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER