Independent Bookstores Are Worth Checking Out

Sun News
Thursday, February 17, 2005

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Out There

Leslie Basalla

I have, for perhaps the first time in my life, an empty bookshelf in my apartment. This is something of a revelation, because I've always had more books than space for them. Now I have space -- a full 7 feet of it -- that's just begging to be filled with the written word.

Now, chances are, some of the things I put in that shelf space will come from Borders or Barnes and Noble (especially from the bargain book sections), but the bulk of my book-buying patronage will take place in local independent bookstores.

In an increasingly global commercial culture, where big box stores routinely drive regional retailers out of business, a good indie bookstore is a rare find. Luckily, Cleveland still has a few book shops where conscientious readers can pick up volumes of great literature while supporting area business.

Independent book shops might not have the warehouse-like selection of the megastores, but they have charm, knowledgeable employees and comparable pirces on new books, and if the store deals in used books, they can be a downright bargain.

A grandfather among local book retailers, Mac's Back on Coventry is a great spot to get lost in a for a few hours, especially if you're a science fiction fanatic. The lofted second floor of the shop is crammed from end to end with paperbacks telling tales of the future.

On the main floor, the store stocks an interessting and diverse selection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as children's books. I recently ran across a beloved novel from my childhood there for a mere $4. The front of the store is also one of the best places in town to pick up zines and chapbooks put out by area poets and other creative types, and the basement is full of even more good stuff.

In keeping with its bohemian history, the shop also plays host to an occasional poety reading or author's visit.

Across town, on the same block as Cleveland Public Theater, the 84 Charing Cross Bookstore is something of different animal. With a "knock to be let in" policy; tall, crowded, oak bookshelves and a prevalence of antique light fixtures, the store has a Dickensian feel about it. The shops's heavy emphasis on first editions and collectable hardcover books adds to the aged and slightly expensive atmosphere.

Billing itself, additionally, as a dealer in ephemera, 84 Charing Cross sells dozen of maps, prints and old magazine ads and illustarations. Shopppers can find them filed in portfolios, labeled by category throughout the shop.

For a bibliophile, walking into the right kind of bookstore can feel like a magical experience, and that's exactly the thrill I got when I stepped through the doors of Loganberry Books on Larchmere Boulevard.

Even the facade of the building, on which certain vertical portions are painted to look like the exquisitely embossed and gilded spines of four books, has a lovely, romantic look. Inside, the enchantment continues, as room after architecturally diverse room opens into another.

Stocked with huge and impressive art and architecture sections, the store fits in well with the galleries in the neighborhood but offers volumes on subjects of interest for nearly everyone.

Loganberry Books in the kind of place everyone can and should lose themselves in.

Other great local independent book shops include Fireside Books in Chagrin Falls, Six Steps Down on West 25th Street and Appletree Books at Cedar-Fairmount. The Olde Erie Street Bookstore on East Ninth Street clings on to existence in a hostile climate, but by appointment only.