A Writer’s Field Trip

archiveshpOff we went, a good friend and I, up the 605 Freeway, then east on the 210 until we reached Pasadena. Our destination? Two different independent bookstores of some note. The one, I discovered, was selected by Publisher’s Weekly as the Independent bookseller of the year for 2008. The other identifies itself as “an independent, theological bookseller that carries over 75,000 new and used theological books.”

Archives Bookshop north of the freeway. Vroman’s Bookstore south.

What an experience of contrasts.

Vroman’s has been in business since 1894 and is apparently going strong. In fact they have opened up another location for textbooks and one for cards and gifts. They’ve built a reputation as a happening place, daily offering speaking and booksigning opportunities to authors. In fact, they have a special location upstairs, with chairs set up, a table for sales, and a table and chair and mic for the author to use.

It’s a beautiful store, with a delightful patio, complete with colorful, artistically positioned tiles, places to sit outside, and well-cultivated plants. There are lots of books in lots of categories—fiction and non-fiction alike.

Speculative fiction was prominent, though the section was called Science Fiction, with a small shelf label of “Horror” displayed here and there. I didn’t see any section for fantasy, though there were some well-known fantasies on the shelves.

Off in a separate room away from most of the other books was a shelf identified as Religion. One shelf carried books obviously dealing with Christianity, though I didn’t recognize a single author. Not one. Most, if not all of these, were non-fiction. About half were books dealing with Catholicism. The next shelf had books labeled Eastern Orthodox. Beside that were selves containing works identified as dealing with Judaism, Islam, Eastern Mysticism. I wondered if perhaps the other side of the shelf held the fiction. No. There was a section for Astrology, the Occult, and Inspirational, though the books in the latter section didn’t seem to necessarily have anything to do with the spiritual.

Keep in mind, this is Vroman’s:

    Vroman’s Bookstore | Publishers Weekly Bookseller Of The Year 2008

Fortunately we had just come from Archives, the theological bookseller. What a contrast. It’s a store pastors in particular would love. Lots of books on the Bible, Old and New Testaments. Lots more commentaries. Whole encyclopedia-like series of commentaries. Biographies. A section on the Puritan writings. Books on preaching and on ministry. And a small, very small section on literature, where C. S. Lewis dominated.

The beauty of the store, however, is the discount section and the used-book section, just off the parking lot. In this storage-like shed, used books are a dollar a piece. In these sections, there’s quite a variety. There was a Richard Russo novel, hardback, I almost bought, but then I thought how I didn’t really want to own that book and how I could get it from the library for free, so I put it back. There were several others like that, but I did end up getting one volume on the history of protestantism that looks quite thorough. A good resource, I hope. For a dollar. 😉

I also bought Lewis’s The Great Divorce. I should have added a copy of Mere Christianity, but I thought I already owned it. Turns out I don’t.

Anyway, the experiences in the two bookstores were quite different because the books were quite different. One virtually godless. The other God-centric. And we wonder why there seems to be a cultural rift in society.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 1:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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