I had a chance to go out to Chicago for the booksellers convention recently and thank a lot of booksellers. Where would I be without them? But I wanted to say more than just that — every author says that — and so I did a little research before my talk. I discovered that, sure, we all know about bookish New York prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who nearly became president … and Dudley R. Dewey, whose Dewey Decimal System libraries all use. But how many of us remember their ancestor David Bowie Dewey, who recognized that the real money in libraries wasn’t in selling memberships or library cards but in all the fines for overdue books … and who hit on the idea of charging those fines up front and not requiring the books to be returned at all?

And thus was born the modern bookstore — the brains and soul of the retail world.

Think about it, I told my audience: every other store is devoted to your food, clothing, or shelter. Necessities. But what other store caters to your mind? To your soul?*

All hail the modern bookstore.

*Yeah, yeah — Blockbuster and Tower Records. I know. But I was addressing booksellers.


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