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Elinor Florence (Company name) Elinor Florence

Ten Top Bookstores

I contacted ten top bookstores that are independently owned and asked managers for the title of their favourite book. What an interesting exercise! They came up with a broad range of interests and genres.

I’ve browsed through every one of these delightful bookstores, and held author readings in four of them. They are not listed in any particular order, but I’ll start with my own hometown bookstore first.

Ten Top Bookstores: Four Points Books, Invermere, BC

Grant Hofer, who took the plunge and opened his very first bookstore ever in 2022 with his wife Thiloma, skipped the latest bestsellers and went straight to one of the classics, first published in 1952.

He says: “My favourite book of all-time is East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. As an author, Steinbeck (for me) has a magical ability to find the beauty in the mundane, and East of Eden is his magnum opus. A sprawling tale about families and relationships, it’s a wonderfully readable classic novel full of plot, beauty, revenge, and love. Timshel!”

(From Elinor: It’s been a few years since I read East of Eden, and I had forgotten that the word “timshel” means man’s freedom to choose between good and evil. Timshel is the word that God utters to Cain when exiling him to the lands east of Eden.) 

Ten Top Bookstores, smiling bearded man, owner Grant Hofer, Four Points Books, Invermere, BC, holds up copy of East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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Ten Top Bookstores: Huckleberry Books, Cranbrook, BC

Owner Erin Dalton found it difficult to choose. We can probably all relate to her dilemma! She said: “Author Neil Gaiman has a great quote on the subject: ‘Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.’

“But . . . The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune is probably in my top five. It’s a warm hug in book form that stands up to multiple re-reads. In fact, the first time I read it, I turned the last page, hugged the book, flipped back to the front cover and promptly started reading it again. It’s a cathartic, uplifting, quirky, affirming tale of found family. It’s also one of my favourite books to hand-sell, because I want to share Klune’s magic with everyone!

Ten Top Bookstores, smiling brunette with short hair and glasses, owner Erin Dalton, Huckleberry Books, Cranbrook, BC, holds up copy of The House by the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

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Ten Top Bookstores: Bacchus Books, Golden, BC

Bookstore Manager Solange Morin works at this favourite community bookstore owned by Caleb Moss. She chose Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, written by Barbara Kingsolver and her family members.

“This little family autobiography chronicles the year they only ate local food, and is heartwarming and inspiring. Filled with stories of family occasions, learning about their land, recipe suggestions and highlighting the importance of eating local for social, environmental and economic reasons, it was a joy to read. How could you not love a book that leaves you researching turkey breeds and reproduction?!”

Ten Top Bookstores, smiling young woman in plaid shirt, employee Solange Morin, Bacchus Books, Golden, BC, stands outside bookshop holding copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

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Ten Top Bookstores: Café Books, Canmore, AB

Manager Amalyn (Ami) Caluluan works at Café Books, owned by Joy McLean. Ami loves Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng. “This is a deeply moving and timely novel about mother’s love and sacrifice for her little boy’s freedom. The story discussed so many social issues including Asian hate/discrimination, book bans and rebellion. It gripped me from the beginning up to the end of the story.”

Ten Top Bookstores, smiling dark-haired woman in purple jacket, employee Amalyn (Ami) Caluluan, Cafe Books, Canmore, AB, holding copy of Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

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Ten Top Bookstores: Mulberry Bush Bookstore, Qualicum Beach, BC

Bookseller Sue Haigh works at Mulberry Bush Bookstore, owned by Tom and Barb Pope. Here she is holding one of her favourite books, Stolen, by Ann-Helén Laestadius. She says: “Based on real events, this book is a powerful, award-winning debut novel about a courageous Sami woman, struggling to defend her family’s reindeer herd and her indigenous heritage and the future of her people. I loved this book on many levels, but mostly because it beautifully details a way of life that, sadly, may be lost.”

Ten Top Bookstores, red-haired woman in green dress and scarf leans on counter, Sue Haigh, Mulberry Bush Bookstore, Qualicum Beach, BC, holding copy of Stolen, by Ann-Hélen Laestadius.

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Ten Top Bookstores: Owl’s Nest Bookstore, Calgary, AB

From bookstore Co-Owner Ryan Smith: “David A. Robertson’s The Barren Grounds is a fantastic book about self-discovery and connection to culture. I look forward to every instalment in this series as a chance to return to the caring community crafted by Robertson and his loving characters.”

Top Ten Bookstores, grinning young man with brush cut, glasses and bow tie, Ryan Smith, Owl's Nest Books, Calgary, AB, holding copy of The Barren Grounds, by David A. Robertson

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Ten Top Bookstores: Audreys Books, Edmonton, AB

Floor Manager Levi Binnema holds his most hand-sold book, one that he says opened his mind. “The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esmé Weijun Wang, is a personal essay collection that opens wide a subject that for a lot of history has been darkened by fear and suspicion. This book tackles society’s view of schizophrenia and juxtaposes it with the author’s experiences. Revelatory, witty, honest, at times brutally sad, yet there are some glimmering comedic moments as well.”

Ten Top Bookstores, smiling bearded man with glasses and mauve golf shirt Levi Binnema, Audreys Books, Edmonton, AB, holding copy of The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esmé Weijun Wang.

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Ten Top Bookstores: McNally Robinson, Saskatoon, SK

From Assistant Manager Vince Diakuw: “House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a love story, a horror story, a satire of academic criticism, a meditation on trauma and loss, and an all-around life-changing read. I have revisited it annually for almost two decades, and always find something new.”

Ten Top Bookstores, handsome smiling man with short hair and glasses, Vince Diakuw, McNally Robinson Saskatoon, SK, holding copy of House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski.

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Ten Top Bookstores: Sea & Summit Bookshop, Parksville, BC

Bookseller Hope Regan chose a manga novel, a Japanese-inspired illustrated novel. “She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai is my absolute favourite comfort book! It is about four women and their cats and how their lives beautifully intersect. This little book fills me with joy and makes me want to hug all my cats!”

Ten Top Bookstores, attractive young blonde woman with big earrings and ponytail, Hope Regan, Sea & Summit Bookshop, Parksville, BC, holds copy of She and Her Cat, by Makoto Shinkai

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Ten Top Bookstores: Type Books, Toronto, ON

Claire Foster is the Manager of Type Books, the Queen Street location (there are three Type Books locations in Toronto). She says: “One of my favorite books is The Baudelaire Fractal by Lisa Robertson, who lives in France but is Canadian, and a friend of the store (this novel was published in 2020 by Toronto indie press Coach House Books). It is a book that traces the narrator’s coming-to-writing, through her histories of reading, of desiring, of wearing and buying and thinking in jackets, of staying in various hotel rooms, of writing in her notebook.

“I love this book, and keep it near me at all times, almost as one would a reference book  –  it is an index of a poet’s becoming, a highly charged vocabulary of thinking and living.”

Ten Top Bookstores, attractive young woman with shoulder-length brown hair, Claire Foster, Type Books, Toronto, ON, holds copy of The Baudelaire Fractal, by Lisa Robertson

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Friends, I know it’s spring and we’re all anxious to get outside – but don’t neglect your reading!

All the best, Elinor

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