Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ann Patchett: My Hero

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Ann Patchett the author. She has written several well-loved books, including Bel Canto, Taft, and her most recent, State of Wonder. But did you know that she is also Ann Patchett the independent bookseller and, sort of by accident, Ann Patchett the spokesperson for independent booksellers everywhere?

When the last general independent bookstore closed in Nashville, her hometown, Ms Patchett and her business partner (former Random House rep Karen Hayes) started their own: Parnassus Books. When an author of such high recognition opens a bookstore, it makes news, and Ms Patchett has been all over the media. If you haven't yet read the article she wrote for the December issue of The Atlantic, I encourage you to read it.

I love just about everything she wrote in her essay, but I was particularly moved by this passage: "Maybe we just got lucky. But this luck makes me believe that changing the course of the corporate world is possible. Amazon doesn't get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves." Ooooh, it still gives me goosebumps - especially the part about Amazon not getting to make all the decisions.

Last year I had the pleasure of attending a conference at which Ms Patchett spoke. She was so moving and inspirational I thought, "I need to  open a bookstore right this minute," and then I remembered I already have one. I have never felt prouder than I did at that moment.