Kicking off the Bookstour series is Books of Wonder. And let me tell you, that is an apt name. Just pop over on that link and look at the picture they have on their site. It looks like a candy store, amiright?
Now, I’m going to tell you guys how friggin’ cool this place is. And hold on, because I’m about to nerd out big time. So if you’re settled in, let’s go!
Books of Wonder opened in 1980 with the intention of exclusively selling antique children’s books. However, short on merchandise, the store owners decided to also sell contemporary children’s books. This remains true to this day.
In the 80s, Books of Wonder joined William Morrow and Company to create an imprint. Due to various mergers, most of the books they published have been taken out of circulation, with the notable exception of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. It is presumably because of this that there is such a heavy presence–half a wall by the cash registers–of Oz things in the current store.
Oh, and one more tiny detail: They’ve expanded five times over the years.
In the Media:
If you don’t recognize what movie the above gif comes from, I’ll forgive you. It is a bit generic. But if you haven’t seen You’ve Got Mail, I’ll only forgive you if you remedy the situation immediately.
Meg Ryan’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, just so happens to be based on Books of Wonder, seeing as Nora Ephraim and her sister/co-writer were both longtime customers. What you see in the film is essentially a recreation of the store (in a different location from the current one), from dimensions to book shelving and displays.
Books of Wonder has made a name for itself as a cultural center. Over the years they’ve hosted the biggest names there are: J.K. Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, and more.
You have my permission to fangirl now.
Every year they also host a panel of the National Book Award finalists in Young People’s Literature. And wouldn’t you know, that was the night Libby and I sashayed through.
Basically, if you are at all interested in children’s or YA, you have to see this place. Even if these genres aren’t your current jam for fun reading, wandering this store will provide a special experience all the same if you have fond memories of reading from your childhood.
Libby and I probably walked around for a good three hours, unlocking earlier and earlier memories. The part I found truly special was that Books of Wonder stocked multiple editions of some books, meaning that we not only saw the books we read as children, but we saw our books exactly as they were in our memories, with the same cover art, the same packaging.
And ooooooh, the packaging. Gilded pages, embossed covers, high quality paper, gorgeous dust jackets. These books are covetable just for their aesthetics.
Seriously. Candy stores have made me drool less.
But as enchanting as the books were, it was all the extras that make this store truly magical.
Because of Books of Wonder’s status, authors are continually coming here for book launches. And that means signed copies.
Those are all signed. And that’s not the entirety of them.
You know shelf talkers? Those (usually hand-written) notes booksellers tape to shelves recommending books? Yeah. Books of Wonder doesn’t have those. Their “shelf talkers” indicate signed books.
Above and beyond the book launches and panels and other super awesome events, there is a twice-weekly Story Time (also depicted in You’ve Got Mail). This place is obviously into fostering a sense of community.
In Case You Haven’t Fainted Already:
Now, because this store seemed to have a personal mission to make me pee from excitement, at the very back, encased in glass, precious as royal jewels, were the rare books. An entire wall of them.
You guys. I’m getting emotional just talking about it. This place exists. It is real.
The Nitty Gritty:
Okay. I’ve collected myself. More or less. (A signed “Where the Wild Things Are” with original illustrations can do that to a girl.)
Libby and I came up with a super scientific, totally numbers-ey grading scale and we debated until we ended up with one rating for each category.
Here’s how Books of Wonder fared.
Staff: 4.5 stars (Libby noted that the booksellers she talked to were friendly, knowledgeable, and obviously passionate about children’s literature.)
Atmosphere: 4.5 stars (There’s no denying that this place is gorgeous. And while they had a smooth system going for the event–large space, enough seating, and a good sound system–there was an extremely distracting squeaky floor. Not fair, I know, but them’s the breaks.)
Organization: 4.5 stars
Rewards Program: Yes (You get a Books of Wonder Dollar for every book purchased in the store and priced over $10.)
Conclusion: Go. Now.