Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City is featured in The Guardian’s “Interview with a Bookstore.” Not only do I sometimes shop at Prairie Lights, but so does Obama (see YouTube, March 25, 2010).
Founded in 1978, it is the oldest bookstore in town except for Iowa Book (founded in 1920). It stocks classics, literary fiction, poetry, history, local history, biography, nonfiction, SF, mysteries, travel, small press books, and journals. Until recently, it even stocked Loebs. It hosts readings three or four times a week. We have attended readings by Joy Williams, Tobias Wolff, and Sherman Alexie.
What I like most about the Guardian piece is the quotes from the staff.
If you weren’t working in a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Kathleen: Writing the books? Would rather sell the books. It’s easier, and the quality is better.
Don’t you love that answer? I’ve always dreamed of owning a bookstore, but not ardently enough!
And Kathleen says her favorite regular is IndieBob, who has an excellent blog, The Indie Bob Spot, about visiting independent bookstores in the U.S.
Here are two more staffers’ answers to the question about what they would do if they didn’t work at a bookstore:
Terry: Night watchman at a cranberry silo.
Tim: I’d probably still be in the restaurant business, either waiting tables or tending bar, bemoaning my existence and spending too much money on books.
A fun article!
MEMORIES OF BOOKSTORES IN IOWA CITY. Growing up in I.C., I loved Iowa Book and Supply (then saucily referred to as Iowa Book & Crook, and even looted once in the ’60s). There I discovered E. Nesbit, Catcher in the Rye, Tolstoy, Doris Lessing, Robertson Davies, Sisterhood Is Powerful (edited by Robin Morgan),and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. On Career Day, when my non-career-oriented friends and I claimed we wanted to own a bookstore in Scotland (were we absurdists, or just absurd?), we spent 20 minutes at The Paper Place, a now defunct paperback bookstore, and then decamped to Burger Palace. Later, Epstein’s was the hip place to buy small-press books, poetry chapbooks, and paperback classics, and attend readings by the Actualist poets: Ansel Hollo, Darrell Grey, Allan Kornblum (later founder of Coffee House Press), Dave Morice, and Morty Sklar. Alas, urban renewal and a relocation to a temporary building on a torn-up street drove Epstein’s out of business in 1977.
I have so many bookstore memories! I just wish more bookstores were still in business.