I Recommend A New Novel

August 31st, 2017

Many independent bookstores aren’t there anymore, but memories remain.

In one of those a while ago, I sat on a couch with a young author. I was there for a signing event for his second book. His first hadn’t drawn much attention but this one was warming up. Even so, we were the only ones there.

We talked about the book and growing up the Memphis area – he was from Southaven – and about Ole Miss and Mississippi State – he had degrees from both – and a lot of other things before anybody else showed up.

His name was John Grisham and the book was The Firm

Time spent in independent bookstores is just more interesting.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, September 1, 2017, and in The Memphis News, August 26-September 2-8, 2017



When I was growing up, The Book Shelf was about where the northwest corner of the Kroger in Poplar Plaza is now. It smelled like books – not the library smell of tomes and the weight of knowledge, but the smell of brand-new information, shiny new possibilities, a world of discovery on a personal scale. It was owned by Earl Howry, a quiet man with a ready laugh. He was a friend of my parents and seemed to quietly know a great many things. There were always interesting people in The Book Shelf, even if Earl was in there all by himself.

Even though cozy, Burke’s Book Store is the kind of bookstore that suggests the book you’re looking for is in there somewhere even if you don’t know what it is. In fact, it’s the kind of bookstore that suggests the author is in there somewhere, too, or soon will be or has just left. It is to books what a favorite old sweatshirt is to you and me, warm, comfortable, supportive and not the least bit pretentious. It’s owned by Cheryl and Corey Mesler. There are always interesting, caring people, and poets and writers in Burke’s, even if Cheryl and Corey are in there all by themselves.

These are the pages of independent bookstores, to be experienced and enjoyed and returned to and remembered and recommended like the books they hold. You’re known in these places like you’re not known in any mall franchise, or huge fluorescent-washed collection of row after row, or in the cold wash of byte light from a computer screen. Words hang in the air here and people you know help you pick them, taste them, and take them home.

And now comes Novel, plotted on the bones of Davis-Kidd Booksellers and The Booksellers at Laurelwood, but this time told as a purely Memphis story. My friends John Vergos, Matt Crow and Christy Yarbro and other local investors are betting that enough of us care about what makes stores like these ours to make this one a bestseller. Novel is in the same location but in a more manageable size than Booksellers, and the outsized knowledge of the former staff returns along with their personality. Bronte Bistro is gone, but the imagination Sabine Bachmann serves in Fratelli’s and ECCO will be served here. The owners understand that customers will come because of what and where it is, but if more are to come more often the next chapter must be even more inviting, intriguing, and involved. Matt gave me a preview and showed me the improved lighting, colors and flow, even more books in less space, and new space for community meetings, events and signings.

The plot thickens.

Corey Mesler was the manager of The Book Shelf for its final owners after Earl. One of those owners was Meg Turner. Her daughter, Wilson Robbins, is now one of the owners of Novel and the children’s book buyer.

I’m a Memphian, and so is Novel.


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