A few days ago my son Dylan came to give me the sad news: Barnes and Noble had closed. Forever. Not the whole chain of stores, thank goodness and not yet, but the one where we had spent many afternoons after school, sometimes staying till closing time: our hangout, the store on Tremont road in Columbus, Ohio, midway between my house and the high school. The tradition of going to Barnes and Noble began early, certainly by age seven or eight, when Dylan still lived Mexico. We would visit the big store in Tribeca, where Dylan got to know one of the store managers. He always recognized Dylan when he came to New York, and he saw him grow from a little boy to a young man.
The routine was always the same. I would find a few books and would go to the cafe to read and work. Dylan would disappear into the stacks to collect a shopping basket of books, sometimes two, that he found interesting. When he was quite young, I would be called to carry the baskets, now quite heavy, to the cafe. Dylan would then sort through the books, reading a bit from each, narrowing down his choices. I would be asked to make my independent evaluation. Then came the hard part: deciding what to buy. “Dad, how many books can I get today.” Me: “two, maybe three.” Eventually the choice would be made.
This process, called “editing,” was occasionally carried out on the floor of the store, where it was much easier to sort the books into categories and make a choice. And also much easier to get into trouble.
We visited B&N wherever we traveled or lived: New York, Columbus Ohio, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Miami, are the cities I remember.
This year, the year of our beloved store’s demise, is Dylan’s gap year. We are spending it in Paris, where we have discovered an excellent bookstore, Librairie Gaglignani, at 234 rue de Rivoli. No editing there, as we were politely told, but the selection of books is superb, and we have taken many prize finds home, much to Nicole’s dismay: how will we transport our new library back to the US?
We carry the habits established at Barnes and Noble wherever we go. On our father-son bonding trip in August, we visited bookstores in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and Helsinki, finding small treasures in each, and lugging them back to Paris. Of course, we haven’t read all these books, though Dylan is doing much better than am I. But we have stored riches for the future. And if another pandemic forces us to stay at home, we are immunized from that most dreaded of diseases: boredom.