Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shopping for the Holidays at Indie Bookstores

Still hunting for that last minute Christmas gift? Try heading to your local bookstore! A great bookseller will be able to recommend a perfect book for that someone on your list. I asked my friends at a few bookstores in New England to share their picks for best-sellers, cookbooks, hot new garden books, or anything else that you might find suitable for your needs.

— Bethany DeMarco, Trade Field Sales Manager

Northshire Bookstore's holiday cookbook display has Storey's Dishing Up Vermont front and center.

Getting ready for the holidays at the Northshire Bookstore is, among many other things, a matter of real estate. There’s always a bit of push and pull this time of year as we try to make room for all the great stuff we want in front of our customers’ eyeballs. In addition to a book inventory that broadens and deepens alarmingly this time of year, so too does our vast selection of gifts and Christmas merchandise. This means our buyers, booksellers, and sidelines experts must all be willing to creatively share space in order to get all the goodies out on the sales floor.

It’s usually a fairly bloodless process. I particularly enjoy building a display of the season’s new cookbooks each year around this time. There are always terrific options for anyone looking for a new book for the gastronome on their list. While Ina Garten is predictably leading the pack among this year’s top-selling cookbooks, we always make room on our display for our best-selling cookbook of the last two years, Dishing Up Vermont by Tracy Medieros.

— Stan Hynds from Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vermont

As with every retailer in the western world, Bank Square Books is very excited for the holiday season. The shelves are burgeoning with beautiful cookbooks, coffee table books full of exotic and exquisite photographs, and — as always — the latest best-sellers and staff picks. Table displays of boxed holiday cards beckon to shoppers to stop a minute and admire the art.

The very best thing of all is that, as an independent bookseller, when it comes time to personally recommend books as gifts, we shine and dazzle. We love hand-selling our favorites as well as reaching outside the box to pick the perfect something for anyone — and we love a challenge!

Here in southeastern Connecticut, organic vegetable gardening is a very hot topic and homesteading is rapidly becoming of interest. We carry many Storey titles in our store, and for an avid gardener, nothing makes a better gift than a gardening book full of information and projects to start in the spring — from the micro (Pleasant and Martin's The Complete Compost Gardening Guide) to the macro (The Organic Farming Manual by Ann Hansen). Because most homeowners don't have a back forty, I'll be excited to recommend The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan, a book I have at home and just love. Increasingly, our customers have been asking for beekeeping and poultry keeping how-tos, and Storey publishes some of the best books out there on raising all kinds of livestock.

For many of us all over, the holidays aren't just a time for glitter and bows, and if you like getting some dirt under your nails all year-round, you can bet your boots I have a book for you!

— Jennifer Tyler at Bank Square Books, Mystic, Connecticut

The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore is an independent bookstore specializing in the best new books. Staffed by a team of voracious readers, we pride ourselves in recommending the perfect book for your holiday gift giving, even if that gift is to you! We are happy to gift wrap for free for any occasion.

Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass shares the rich diversity of Maryland foods and farms and includes 150 recipes, advice on where to visit, and profiles of local food producers, chefs, and restaurants. This is a must-have for someone who cooks every day or once-a-year.

Glass House of Dreams ($45.00, Palm House Studios) celebrates Baltimore's landmark Victorian glass palace, the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in historic Druid Hill Park. Margaret "Peggy" Stansbury is founder of the nonprofit Baltimore Conservatory Association that worked with the City to save and restore the Conservatory. In her new book, Stansbury takes readers back in time to a moment in history when glass houses captured the imaginations of urbanites across the nation and around the world. Extraordinary photographs by David Simpson capture the beauty of individual plants and flowers housed in the Conservatory. Perfect for gardeners!

— Greg at Ivy Bookshop, Baltimore, Maryland

An introduction to a new hobby always makes for a cool, thoughtful gift. As a homebrewer, I love pitching guides for making beer along with some brewing supplies as a bundle. Start off with the super-accessible Brewing Made Easy or The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and your friends will be on their way to their own beer in no time. If someone has brewed before or you think they'll really latch on to the hobby, the new edition of CloneBrews and a copy of the Homebrewer's Answer Book are worth editions to any brewer's bookshelf.

You know what they say — give a man a beer, he'll drink for a day; teach a man to brew, and he'll never go thirsty.

— Josh Christie, Sherman's Books & Stationery, Freeport, Maine

Visit your local independent bookstore for books and more. Remember shop local this holiday season! Looking for a store in your area, plug in your zip code on this website (!

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