How Cool Is Your City?

A quote from Shelf Awareness, July 31st:

Judging a City's 'Level of Coolness' by its Bookshops

"A good way to judge whether a city has the desired level of 'coolness' is to look at its bookshops. If there is more than one bookshop selling books in foreign languages on an extensive range of topics, from cookery to philosophy, if one can find what one is looking for there and, furthermore, if one is allowed to stroll through the books while having a sip of coffee from the bookshop's café, it is an ultimate plus for the intellectual outlook of the city, enticing for anyone considering moving to that city. Bookshops, with their design, their smell, their location and their staff are among the important visitor's attractions of a city, although not many people think about bookshops as 'places to visit.'"--From Today's Zaman, an English-language newspaper in Turkey.


I don't know about not thinking of bookshops as "places to visit" - I absolutely do - but there's something to be said for local (independent) bookshops as a gauge of a city's "cool factor." If not cool factor, then local character at least. Annapolis stands true to herself with The Annapolis Bookstore, a small used bookstore run by (I recently discovered) one of my neighbors. The town's real gem of a store is Hard Bean, though, with its eclectic mix of military history books (the history section is easily twice the size of the fiction row), bargain books, odd tsotchkes (woven blankets of Naval Academy goats displayed next to a shelf of overpriced hand cream, for example), an ice cream section, café and full-blown sandwich and pastry bar. Oh, and now they serve booze - the ultimate test of an Annapolis establishment.

These are the only two bookstores in walking distance of Ego Alley and true downtown Annapolis, and together, they represent the best of the town: a used, slightly worn but appreciated sense of history and the antique, coupled with a desire to please, sail, boat, fish, crab, host midshipmen, satisfy a sweet tooth, and, you guessed it, get a bit drunk at times. I salute Zaman for a bit of excellent insight and Annapolis for two spaces that will forever be a part of the city.

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