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.
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
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.