My Book Connections

I love books and enjoy reading, searching for, and collecting them. I find a lot of my treasured keepsakes at independent and used book stores. I’d like to recommend several independent book emporiums in the Philadelphia region which I frequent. In the South Philly/Center City area, I patronize Head House Books and the Joseph Fox Bookshop . When I travel outside the neighborhood for books, I go to Inkwood Books in Haddonfield, NJ and the Doylestown Bookshop

I also venture out to used book stores to search for older gems. Last Saturday, I visited Philadelphia’s Italian Market with a friend, who is also a bibliophile. After purchasing a dozen (actually sixteen) butter almond cookies at Isgro’s Bakery and stopping at a coffee shop to wash down a few of those powder encrusted morsels, we proceeded to Molly’s Books and Records where I found two novels (True Grit by David Portis and The Sympathizer by Viet Thang Nguyen) for which I had hunted for the past year. Molly’s also offers a wide selection of vinyl albums and a great collection of pulp fiction paperbacks from the fifties and sixties.

 Many used book stores specialize in certain genres of books. Second Time Books in Rancocas, NJ has an extensive collection of history books as well as a special section devoted to sci-fi novels. Its owner, Brandon, is a great dude, who holds an MFA in creative writing, and is always glad to help a customer with their book exploration. In addition to this rural and rustic used book store, I would also like to recommend The Book Trader, which is located in Old City and Bookhaven in Fairmount.

 My current book collection stands at about one thousand and contains a dozen signed first edition copies. Among my treasured possessions are a couple of William Kennedy novels. I met Mr. Kennedy at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Author Events Series and have shook the hand of the great man three times. I’ve collected the signatures of several other extraordinary authors at the Free Library including Umberto Eco (Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose), James Ellroy (American Tabloid and LA Confidential), and Iris Chang (The Rape of Nanking). While living in LA, I had the good fortune to meet Jerry Stahl, who is most famous for his addiction memoir Permanent Midnight and who subsequently wrote a very good novel called I, Fatty, which is about the ill-fated silent screen star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

The bulletin board on the wall next to my writing desk contains a good number of inspirational quotes such as “Okay, Creative Force, you take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity.” Next to this quote is another which I study every morning before I write. It states, “A large display of my novel A Bold & Brazen Article sits in a book store window and my giving a reading and discussion of my novel in the main Free Library of Philadelphia’s auditorium with people lined up afterwards to have me sign my book which they just purchased.” By repeating this affirmation, I keep the faith that someday this fledgling writer can sit on the same stage as the greats that I’ve referenced above. Another dream of mine is to someday open my own used book store/coffee and cheesesteak shop. For this ravenous reader, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Finally, I want to wish all of my friends, family, and readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy Reading and Writing New Year. And if you are doing a little last minute Christmas shopping, I encourage you to visit an independent book store to purchase some literary gifts for your friends and loved ones.