Even though Denise and I were only in town for a long weekend to visit our friends Tom and Peg we managed to squeeze in stops at three very good Phoenix-area bookstores (in addition to tours of the Phoenix Botanical Gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright's school at Taliesin West). “Managed” is the operative word here because although we think Tom and Peg like bookstores as much as we do, part of the logistical success came as a result of visiting two of the stores near closing time and the other on the way to the airport. Was this just by accident or pre-planned by our hosts? Either way it was well-executed.
Here is a replay of our bookstore visits:
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale
For over 25 years, The Poisoned Pen has specialized in mysteries, thrillers and historical and literary fiction and books about the Southwest. They host over 200 readings and events a year. It seems like anyone writing in these genres makes an appearance at this bookstore. I picked up a signed copy of Jonathan Lethem's latest collection of short stories, Lucky Alan and Other Stories (2015). I was not too surprised to see Lethem books, though I am more familiar with his literary fiction like Chronic City (2009) and The Fortress of Solitude (2003). Nevertheless, I find myself more often than not recommending Lethem's page turner Motherless Brooklyn (1999), about a small-time private detective/hood with Tourette's Syndrome trying to solve the murder of his paternal boss.
Denise purchased an interesting looking book, Jean Claude-Izzo's Garlic, Mint and & Sweet Basil: Essays on Marseille, Mediterranean Cuisine and Noir Fiction (2013). As you know, you can only find these exotic titles by browsing. At my urging Tom picked up a copy of Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North (2010) about a teenage Mexican girl who leads a Seven Samurai-inspired trek in the United States to find her father.
Changing Hands, Two locations (Tempe & Phoenix)
We visited the Tempe store. Changing Hands has been around 40 years and it is the size of a Barnes & Noble, carrying both new books and used books that are in top condition. I refrained from buying something, but I did play Stump the Courtesy Desk by asking for books by Dan Okrent and Wilfred Sheed (unfair requests, really), but considering the wide selections and size of the store, I felt they might have some of their works in stock. Like Poisoned Pen, the staff was very friendly even when they patiently reminded us that they were about to close.
Denise found two books that she liked: Anna Quindlen's Still Life with Bread Crumbs (2014) and a used copy of Jose Saramago's Skylight (2011). I bought some lip balm because after two days in the dry air my lips were starting to crack like I was in one of the B-Westerns when the parched cowboy is crawling aimlessly around in the desert.
Guidon Books, Scottsdale
Though it wasn't exactly on our way to the airport, our accommodating hosts took us there anyway. Oh, what a store for a Civil War buff! It also carries Western and Native American themed books. I chatted with the store's owner Shelly Dudley, whose father opened the store 50 years ago, about some of my recent Civil War favorites, such as Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia (2010), which she had in stock. Most impressive.
I purchased James G. Hollingsworth's The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (1995) because while browsing I was intrigued by the story that the free blacks who lived in New Orleans fought as separate unit very early in the war.
At the airport we were able to put the books in our suitcase and still stayed under the 50 pound limit. We were thankful that it didn't impact our carry on capacity, which we used for the oranges and grapefruit from the trees in Tom and Peg's backyard.
Much bounty from the Valley of the Sun.