Sara Mills

Sara Mills lives in Alberta, Canada in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She is freelance writer, wife and mother of three. Her passions include collecting swords, raising Golden Retrievers and hosting a house full of hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles and puppies. Aside from animals and swords, Sara loves film noir, Humphrey Bogart and The Maltese Falcon. Miss Fortune is her first novel. You can visit her website at

Churchmouse’s Book and Gift

If I’ve got more books in my to-be-read pile than they’ve got in their entire inventory, they’re not really a bookstore. ...

I am a Christian bookstore connoisseur. My husband says I’m a junkie, but he hasn’t read a book since the Reagan administration, so his opinion on this matter doesn’t count. I am a Christian bookstore connoisseur.

Everywhere I go, I keep my eyes open for Christian bookstores I have yet to explore. Put me around books and I can lose an entire afternoon, but put me in a new (to me) Christian bookstore and I can be gone for days.

Every bookstore is different, and one of the most obvious differences is how they use their space. In other words, the ratio of books to knickknacks.

I’ve seen it all. I’ve been in bookstores in which, to be honest, books are clearly an endangered species. You’d need a compass, an ice pick, and a miner’s headlight to unearth any Christian fiction. Instead you’ll find shelves of angel statuettes, Bible covers, cards, notepaper, hemp jewelry (which I don’t quite get, but that’s a topic for another column), and the ever present Thomas Kinkade prints.

You can usually spot these stores by the presence of the word gift in the store’s name. As in Churchmouse’s Book and Gift. Although the owners of Churchmouse aren’t exactly lying, they’re definitely advertising “creatively.” If I’ve got more books in my to-be-read pile than they’ve got in their entire inventory, they’re not really a bookstore.

Next, you have the half and halfs. Or maybe third, third, and thirds. These are small stores that sell a little bit of everything. If there were such thing as a Christian General Store, this would be it. They have three tables: one where you can sit and have a coffee, another where they sell some type of herbal medicine products, and then their fine selection of WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) ties, undershirts, socks, and sweatbands.

They sell bumper stickers and, oh, yeah, they sell some books. I feel like I can make a difference in these stores. As though, maybe, if I buy enough books there, come tax time they will realize what part of the store is making money and therefore devote a few more shelves to fiction. It hasn’t happened yet, but there are a few stores where I’m fairly sure if they kept track of who was keeping them in business, I would at least get a shelf with my name engraved on it.

And then, there are the bliss stores: The fiction section stretches for aisle upon aisle, shelf upon shelf. It brings me to tears, seeing the vastness. It brings my husband to tears, but for a very different reason. These stores clearly are in business for the books. They’ve got every title I’ve ever heard of and plenty I haven’t. They’ve got old stuff, new stuff, and their staff even make recommendations.

Sure they still have their knickknack sidelines, but that’s just what the knickknacks are: sidelines. (And please understand, I’m not knocking knickknack, I just have three kids and three dogs. I’ve never owned a knickknack for more than a week without it getting knocked over and broken.

And as far as I’m concerned if you offer me the choice of a book or a coffee mug with a Bible verse on it, it’s not even a question of which one I’m going to pick.) If I was going to come up with a formula for the perfect ratio of trinkets to books (using a complex mathematical formula of my own devising—because I am notoriously lousy at math, your mileage may vary while using my formula), it would be:


Or in layman’s terms, one knickknack for every fifty books.

Miss Fortune