Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 Bookstores’ role in today’s Enlightenment

Bookstores’ role in today’s Enlightenment

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Articles and Reports

Bookstores, and in particular independent bookstores, play a role similar to that of coffee shops during the European Enlightenment – that is the interesting view of Connecticut English professor Rick Magee’s writing in CT Insider.

 

He writes: ‘One of the driving forces of the Enlightenment in Europe was the spread of the coffee shop, a place where people could gather and talk about ideas big and small. The bookstore serves a similar function in providing space not just for the products for sale but for people to trade ideas.’

 

This view of bookstores as crucial to society, playing a role in the dissemination of ideas, is fascinating; bookstores have a role in shaping public opinion.

 

Magee’s article was prompted by a visit to Byrd’s Books in Bethel, Connecticut, one of the smallest bookstores in the state.  He notes that the size means owner Alice Hutchinson plays “a crucial role as curator of the books. She has to read the town, anticipate what her customers will want to read and satisfy their requirement to keep up with current bestsellers while at the same time providing something a little bit new and different. In an important way, the bookstore is a reflection of the town’s identity.’

 

He adds: ‘One could argue that other businesses are more important — a grocery, a gas station, a liquor store all drive the economy with more vigor.  However, the bookstore is where the ideas circulate, providing culture, community, and nourishment in so many ways.

“The customer tells a story,” Alice said to me, and this is such a vital part of the bookstore. Customers walk in to find a book for themselves or a friend. They think about a beloved book from their childhood, the thing that nurtured them and helped create their identity. Or they remember a friend saying that this novel gave them feelings they will never forget and made them cry, and the customer wants to share in this feeling.’

 

 

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