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Favourite Places of 2012 – Gwenda Bond

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a little sick of the best of book lists–and most of my favorite reads this year would be on ones you’ve already seen, I’m sure. And this year has been such a crazy whirlwind of First Book Release OMGZOMG Write Second Book OMGZOMG Write Another New Book (still working on that) OMGZOMG–and do all the other stuff that has to be done–that I’ve seen very few movies, and while I’ve watched a bunch of TV, I blab about that all over. So, I started wondering what I could do to mix it up a little and capture a bit of this terrifying, exhilarating year that has left me with so many favorite moments and so many people to thank and I had an idea.

Because I got to visit some very special places this year, and in each one of them, witness my dream having come true. My own first book in the places that have been my personal idea of heaven (along with libraries) since I was a child. While I can’t even begin to express my enormous gratitude to the wondrous booksellers that inhabit these special places and let me visit, hopefully this will be one little way of doing so. That’s right, this is going to be a list of:

My Favorite Places of 2012: The Magnificent Independent Bookstores I Visited This Year (in the order I visited them)

1. Duck’s Cottage Downtown Books, Manteo. My very first book event EVER was here, before the book even came out, in the heart of Roanoke Island. Downtown Books has only existed in this location for a couple of years, having valiantly stepped in to make sure the space stayed a bookstore after long-time occupant Manteo Booksellers was forced to close due to devastating hurricane damage. Co-owner and bookseller extraordinaire Jamie has been a huge champion for Blackwood and has become a friend. She made this event more special than I could have imagined, even going so far as to invite members of The Lost Colony theater–in costume. If you’re vacationing in the Outer Banks, you must visit her and the store. I wrote about this day at length here.

2. The Book Cellar, Chicago. I was lucky enough to have another pre-release event here, though this one was mere days before the book came out. Visiting this gorgeous store (which not only has a great inventory and atmosphere, but also sells booze and is across from a gelato shop!) was doubly, no triply special, because it wasn’t just me, but my Strange Chemistry release sister Kim Curran, and two fine stand-up gents published by the Angry Robot side of the house, Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher. It was honor being in such a spectacular store with all of them, surrounded by generous local folks and friends and other friends who schlepped over from WorldCon.

3. Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville. I actually got to visit Malaprop’s twice in 2012, which would make it a good year all by itself. The first time was for a group event with eight other southern kidlit and YA writers while we were on retreat nearby and the second was the day after Blackwood’s release with Beth Revis, Susan Dennard, Sarah J. Maas, and Meagan Spooner. Both times were a total treat. Malaprop’s is an Asheville institution and with good reason. It’s one of the nicest bookstores you’ll ever visit, filled with wonderful booksellers, and right in the middle of a fantastic city.

4. Morris Book Shop, Lexington. We are very lucky in Lexington (as you’ll see by this entry and the next) in terms of bookstores. Morris Book Shop has become not just one of my favorite bookstores, but a place I consider a dear friend, because it’s filled with dear friends. Supportive and excited about literary culture, book lovers with wide-ranging taste who’ve built a store that exudes that inclusive, idiosyncratic aesthetic. Shout out to Wyn, Hap, and my YA-loving pal Alison. They hosted my launch party, and didn’t bat an eyelash when I made a Monas Hieroglyphica in pastry.

5. Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington. Like I said, lucky! One of the biggest treats this year has been getting to know the amazing booksellers (and all round book superstars) at our largest independent–I’ve no doubt it’s one of the largest in the country, and it’s definitely one of the nicest stores I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Getting to do an event here was thrilling, because it’s the bookstore I grew up with. It’s a part of my history–and my present–as a reader. And it also has a restaurant and bar, which serves the George R.R. Martini and the Suzanne Collins. So glad I’ve gotten to know Brooke, Amanda, Cheryl, and Michael this year.

6. Oblong Books and Music, Rhinebeck. Of course, this was on my list of Bookstores I Must Get To If At All Possible, as it’s the frequent lair of my agent Jenn, who includes among her many talents (of course) bookselling. Back before she was ever an agent, or ever my agent, I hoped one day I’d get to do a fabulous YA event at one of her stores. So, my recent visit to Oblong–which is a beautiful, airy bookshop with all the books you want, in the midst of a picturesque village filled with interesting shops and tempting restaurants–was extra special. Not to mention I got to do an event with one of my personal writing heroes, Ms. Libba Bray, meet Oblong’s wonderful owner Suzanna, and witness the magic of the Hudson Valley YA Society up close. If I lived nearby, I’d be there constantly.

7. McNally Jackson Books, NYC. I only got to stop in at McNally Jackson briefly as I was on my way home from Rhinebeck, but at some point I’m going back and lingering. This is the kind of bookstore you walk in and immediately want to spend hours in. I was signing some stock and seeing bookseller and amazing author (!) Kate Milford, and eavesdropping on her conversations with patrons who came in while I was hanging out were a clear indication of how much trust the people who shop there put in the store and its staff. And I wasn’t surprised by that in the least. At the moment, they also have a gorgeous window display designed by Sophie Blackall. It doesn’t get better than that.

I highly suggest visiting any and all of these stores, if you get a chance. And that’s a wrap…as I start planning what books I’m going to buy for presents when we hit Morris and Joseph-Beth in the three days left before Christmas as I type this. Thanks again to all these bookstores for helping make my 2012 an unforgettable year. I hope to visit you all again soon.

Amanda

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We strongly believe that shopping for books should involve holding them in your hands, paging through them, and talking about them with other book lovers. So if you’re in or near Lexington, Kentucky, we encourage you to come to the Morris Book Shop for the decidedly un-virtual experience of selecting your next book.

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