The Wonder of Bookstores

Former faculty member Richard Russo “pays homage to the shop where he fell in love with reading—and to the crucial role bookstores can still play in our lives” for Parade Magazine.

The first great bookstore in my life wasn’t really a bookstore. Alvord and Smith was located on North Main Street in Gloversville, N.Y., and if memory serves, they referred to themselves as stationers. I don’t recall the place being air-conditioned, but it was always dark and cool inside, even on a sweltering summer day. In addition to a small selection of books, the store sold stationery, diaries, journals, and high-end fountain and ballpoint-pen sets, as well as drafting and art supplies. The shelves went up and up the walls, and I remember wondering what was in the cardboard boxes beyond my reach. The same things on the shelves below? Other, undreamed-of wonders? Alvord and Smith was a store for people who—though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time—had aspirations beyond life in a grungy mill town. It was never busy...[Keep Reading]…

Richard is the author of, most recently, Elsewhere: A memoir (Knopf, 2012).

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