The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Revisiting Favorite Bookshops

An excellent list, for sure! I have to give a shoutout to one of my favorite places in the world -- Powell's City of Books in Portland, Oregon. Elliott Bay Books in Seattle comes in a very close second. I could spend (and have spent) a full day in both. Here in Asheville, we have Malaprop's, which is a small indie with an incredibly knowledgeable staff, a sizeable children's section, and a sizeable collection of locally written and locally published books. Their calendar of readings and other book events is always impressive. And, while their collection of fiction, nonfiction, biography, spiritual text, YA, history, humor, and so on is small, it's also very carefully curated and they're able to pull anything from their warehouse if it's not on the shelf, within a couple days. A little gem here in town.

I'm also a giant fan of Parnassus in Nashville. I've only been there once and had about 15 minutes to spend. Wound up with about 12 volumes in my hand walking around that place -- things I stumbled upon thanks to their recommendations and the notes about the books, hanging from the shelves. All hail great bookstores! 

This column is a wonderful detour, Henry.

Kim beat me to it, but Powell's in Portland, Oregon. It's reason enough to visit Portland. 

(And best wishes for whatever's next.)

Really enjoyed your insight here Henry, glad Ed's record store column preciptated your writing here, there's definitely a parallel between the two forms and the way things have evolved...your love for literature does translate in the columns you write here.  I've purchased several books on your recommendation (still haven't read a couple of them but it's on my to do list).  As a person who has had many a friend in the publishing industry experience the same circumstance you currently find yourself in, I wish you all the best in whatever is "next" for you. 

Ahhh...the aisles of nostalgia! I spent many hours browsing the shelves of Leary's Bookstore on 9th street in Philadelphia back in the fifties and early sixties. I think it may also be the place where I picked up my copy of Pete Seeger's "How to Play the Five String Banjo" along with the accompanying record. Later, as a minor collector and buyer of good, inexpensive books kept in "readers" for years, years when even remaindered books was a stretch. 

I part with you, Henry, about the influence of electronic books. There are two factors influencing my move to the Kindle and its apps - space, and age. Over the years we've assembled and then had to dispose of several collections, one, I think, pretty valuable due to moving. Now, as we approach the ultimate down-sizing while living much of our year in an RV, the issue is ever  more pressing. I no longer wish to accumulate books.

The second issue is age-related. As my hands become weaker and more arthritic, I don't like to hold books any longer. It hurts too much. Weight, and the ability to read in the dark argue for using a pad with its internal light. This is not an eventuality to which I looked forward, but there it is. 

Sorry about your being cast loose. It ain't fun, but sometimes it forces gaining a new perspective. Best to you. - Ted

@Ted: I spent quite a bit of money at Leary's, as well as Robin's Books at 13th and Market. 

It was nice to see a nod to The Book Exchange! The Regulator Bookshop, also in Durham but still open, continues to fight the good fight.

Bookshops and record stores! How do kids occupy their time these days?

@Hal: The same way we did: sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. 

The happiness of pursuit!

Oh yeah...and then you become an adult...and it changes to the pursuit of happiness...TPOH, fun Canadian band, sang a song called "I'm an Adult Now"...sounds like where many of us reside these days...credits to Moe Berg...enjoy your sex, drugs and rock and roll while you can, this song covers all that...

Well, I don't hate my parents
I don't get drunk just to spite them
I've got my own reasons to drink now
I think I'll call my dad up and invite him

I can sleep in till noon anytime I want
Though there's not many days that I do
Gotta get up and take on that world
When your an adult it's no cliche it's the truth

'Cause I'm an adult now
I'm an adult now
I've got the problems of an adult
On my head and on my shoulders
I'm an adult now

I can't even look at young girls anymore
People will think I'm some kind of pervert
Adult sex is either boring or dirty
Young people they can get away with murder

I don't write songs about girls anymore
I have to write songs about women
No more boy meets girl boy loses girl
More like man tries to understand what the hell went wrong

I can't take any more illicit drugs
I can't afford any artificial joy
I'd sure look like a fool dead in a ditch somewhere
With a mind full of chemicals
Like some cheese-eating high school boy

'Cause I'm an adult now
I'm an adult now
I've got the problems of an adult
On my head and on my shoulders
I'm an adult now

Sometimes my head hurts and sometimes my stomach hurts
And I guess it won't be long
For I'm sitting in a room with a bunch
Of people whose necks and backs are aching
Whose sight and hearing's fading
Who just can't seem to get it up
Speaking of hearing, I can't take too much loud music

I mean I like to play it, but I sure don't like the racket
Noise, but I can't hear anything
Just guitars screaming, screaming, screaming
Some guy screaming in a leather jacket

I'm an adult now
I'm an adult now
I've got the problems of an adult
On my head and on my shoulders
I'm an adult now

@Henry: Glad I assisted in your inspiration, although your column offers much more detail than I got into. And I'm sorry to hear about the job loss. I know this is of little solace but you're one of thousands in your line of work whose jobs have been eliminated. Fortunately, The Donald has your back and you'll soon be making millions thanks to trickle down economics. 

Unlike you, at times I have to use Amazon because the pricing disparity is so wide. I try to hit The Strand every few weeks (it's so hot in the basement where they've moved the music books but easier to browse), and although I always spend something because I want to support them, when I find something I want I always check the Amazon app. And sometimes the difference in price is astounding. Last week they had a used book I had been looking for priced at $18.95 and it was online at just $ shipping and tax included. 

A world without bookstores, and record stores as well, seems quite sad. But I can imagine my parents feeling the same way about buying fresh fruit and veggies from the hucksters with horse carts and household items from the Fuller Brush man. 



In the late 60s, Hermosa Beach, California was Southern California's Haight Ashbury. The bookstore there was Either Or bookstore. It was built along a three level descending corner. It was there I first read the words of Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory. I picked up the first Rolling Stone and Cream was a place of coming of age and discovery. Thanks for the reminder Henry! I hope all goes well with your career situation. Watch for great things to happen!!

'CREEM' magazine, Terry. I'm not sure I ever bought a copy - I remember it for the spelling of the name. (Wikipedia tells me it was lower case on the masthead, all caps when referred to internally.) I was a Crawdaddy reader in the seventies. 

Sorry to hear the news, Henry, and thanks for toughing it out to write the column; hope it provided a needed break, under the unwelcome and undeserved circumstances.

Here in San Francisco, City Lights of course continues to be a beacon, as is Green Apple Books out in the Richmond district and Alexander's in downtown S.F. I think they all own the buildings where they operate, a hedge against the eviction mania that is part of the gentrification of the once boho town. (I believe McMurtry announced awhile back that he was selling off most of his huge book barn in Archer City; another loss).

Keep the faith, and keep writing.