21 Writers On Their Favorite Bookstores

Lynn Friedman, Flickr //  CC BY NC-ND 2.0
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

We all have our favorite spots for browsing the latest titles and uncovering hidden gems, but who better to share their picks of most beloved bookstores than the authors whose names appear on those hallowed store shelves. Spoiler: It's a very tough choice to make. 

1. HANYA YANAGIHARA // AUTHOR OF A LITTLE LIFE

"Three Lives & Company, in New York's West Village, is the kind of tiny, cheery bookshop that exists only in movies, and that people come to New York hoping to find (well, I did). If you go at 5 p.m. on any weekend, there's a lovely, two-glasses-of-rosé kind of intimacy that settles in, an impromptu salon of regulars, the very well-read bookselling staff, and tourists all talking books."

2. AND 3. HOLLY BLACK AND CASSANDRA CLARE // AUTHORS OF THE MAGISTERIUM SERIES

Black: "That’s a tough question. I am lucky enough now to live in a place where there are a lot of great local bookstores. There’s Amherst Books, which is right down the street from me and always has books I never find anywhere else. There’s Odyssey Books, which has a fantastic children and young adult section and people ready to recommend great things, and then a bit further from town, there’s a used bookstore near a waterfall, called The Book Mill. It’s a great store and I particularly love their slogan: 'Books You Don’t Need In a Place You Can’t Find.'"

Clare: "It’s a tie between Books of Wonder, because that’s where I bought children’s books while I was in college, and Hatchards in London, because that’s where the characters in Georgette Heyer’s novels buy their books."

4. POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR // AUTHOR OF THE LAST ILLUSION

marfa book co storefront
Monica D., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"It’s a tie between Marfa Book Company in Marfa, Texas, for its good looks, and Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, for sentimental reasons (my first Faulkner pilgrimage when I was in college)."

5. MALLORY ORTBERG // AUTHOR OF TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE

"Feldman's in Menlo Park, California, because it's where I discovered Shirley Jackson by accident my junior year in high school."

6. AND 7. HEATHER COCKS AND JESSICA MORGAN // AUTHORS OF THE ROYAL WE

Morgan: "We had an event for The Royal We at Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C., and I fell in love. Not just because they have a bar, but—they have a bar! And it's open 24 hours! And the staff is awesome! If I lived in D.C., I would literally spend all of my money there. Take my money, Kramerbooks!"

Cocks: "Kramerbooks is one of my favorites too. There's also an amazing place in downtown Los Angeles called The Last Bookstore. It's most famous for the labyrinth of $1 books on the mezzanine, which features an actual tunnel you can walk through. It's just beautiful."

8. MEGAN ABBOT // AUTHOR OF THE FEVER

"If I can qualify it as my favorite bookstore-for-whom-my-debt-is-the-greatest, it’d be Murder by the Book in Houston, its extraordinary owner McKenna Jordan, and its brilliant booksellers. They serve as one of the great beacons of light in the crime-fiction community. And they always recommend the best books to me. I never leave empty-handed, whether it’s Sally pressing Ben H. Winters’s novels into my hands or John sending me a long-out-of-print sensation novel (Mary Braddon’s The Face in the Glass)."

9. SARAH VOWELL // AUTHOR OF LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES

Country Bookshelf interior
N i c o l a, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"Country Bookshelf in my hometown of Bozeman, Montana, for bogarting my babysitting money throughout my formative years; Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.; Elliott Bay in Seattle; Powell's in Portland, Oregon; and an honorable mention to Eslite in Taiwan for making book shopping second only to dumpling eating as Taipei's favorite pastime."

10. LEIGH BARDUGO // AUTHOR OF SIX OF CROWS

"Books and Books in Miami—there's a bar! Drop by Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California, for just a few minutes and you instantly sense how important the store is to the community. Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, has a great crew of local authors, adorable dogs roaming the aisles, and [owner] Ann Patchett."

11. LEILA SALES // AUTHOR OF MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS

"Hatchards, in Piccadilly, London. Because it is old and huge and beautiful, and it feels like a palace of books. (And/or because I am one of those pretentious Americans who just likes British things better.) When my third book was published in the U.K., I got to sign stock at Hatchards, and that was the moment when I finally felt like, 'Wow, I am an author!'"

12. EMMA STRAUB // AUTHOR OF THE VACATIONERS

"I worked at Brooklyn's BookCourt for four years, so I feel an allegiance to them, partly because I already know where everything is. But I also feel devoted to Greenpoint/Jersey City's WORD, because they are the coolest and best, and I also feel devoted to Park Slope's Community, because they are the closest to my house and so I am there most often. How about I choose the Bank Street Children's Bookstore, on the Upper West Side, or Books of Wonder, near Union Square? Oh, Mental Floss. I can't choose."

13. ROXANE GAY // AUTHOR OF BAD FEMINIST

The last bookstore book tunnel
Omaromar, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

"This is a tough choice because there are many I am fond of, but The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. It is such a strange, quirky space that feels different each time."

14. ANN M. MARTIN // AUTHOR OF RAIN REIGN

"The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, New York, is small but carries a wide variety of titles, has a dedicated and involved staff of book lovers, champions local authors, and is a vibrant part of the community, sponsoring many author events. Books of Wonder in New York City is a children's-only bookstore with shelf after shelf of new titles and classics, a special interest in L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, a tantalizing case of old and rare books, and a passionate owner who regularly brings together children's authors and illustrators."

15. RAINA TELGEMEIER // AUTHOR OF SISTERS

green apple bookstore
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

"Just one?! There are so many great bookstores! Books of Wonder in New York, Powell’s in Portland, Green Apple in San Francisco … I’ll give a special shout-out to Kidsbooks in Vancouver, British Columbia. They specialize in children’s books, have amazingly creative window displays, know their customer base inside and out, and put on one of the finest events anywhere in the world. I have never felt like more of a rock-star author than when I visit Kidsbooks!"

16. AVA DELLAIRA // AUTHOR OF LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD

"Ah! Such a hard question. I have many favorite bookstores in different cities I’ve lived in and traveled to. But my first favorite bookstore is a great indie store in Albuquerque called Bookworks, where I’d go to browse during breaks from my first job and discovered many a wonderful title as a high schooler."

17. MARISSA MEYER // AUTHOR OF THE LUNAR CHRONICLES

Joseph Beth booksellers interior
Rich Bowen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"I'd have to go with Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. There's some nostalgia at play—they hosted my first book tour signing when Cinder came out in 2012, and they've thrown spectacular Lunar Chronicles events since then. Last time I was there, they even had TLC-themed cocktails at the cafe, and that sort of attention to detail really blows me away. On top of hosting great events, it's also a lovely, laid-back bookstore with great staff."

18. JAMES PATTERSON // AUTHOR OF THE MURDER HOUSE

"People often ask me what my favorite character is, among all those I’ve created. And I tend to dodge the question a bit, saying—quite truthfully—that it would be like picking a favorite child. It wouldn’t be fair to Lindsay or Rafe or Alex or Michael or Max to say one or the other was my favorite. Bookstores aren’t like children to me, but a similar principle applies. Maybe it’s more like picking a favorite adult family member. There, again, I have too many I love in too many different ways to pick a very favorite. I have great sentiment for my own local bookshop, Classic in Palm Beach. I dig The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, Malaprops in Asheville, and all of the independent stores that I gave grants to last year. And I also am keen on the ones I didn’t get to give grants to last year. I hope to recognize more of them soon. And I am a huge, huge fan of Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million and Hastings for their big focus on books. I am excessively fond of BJ’s, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart, and other general merchandise stores for their innovative and wide presentation of books and their insistence that books be for sale in their stores even when they’re not the flashiest or most lucrative category of goods they sell. And I love e-book sellers too, for carving out a space in people’s screens where, rather than watching a video or seeing what celebrities are doing, you can actually read stories. Basically, if you sell books—if you take time and attention to bring books to people, if you favor what I consider to be one of the greatest cultural developments in human history and continue to make noise and draw people’s attention to it—then I favor you. How’s that for (with great candor, I swear) dodging a politically charged question?"

19. RAINBOW ROWELL // AUTHOR OF CARRY ON

"This is tough, but I'll say Waterstones Piccadilly, because if I'm there, it means I'm in London. Also, I once had an amazing beet salad at the restaurant on the top floor."

20. ELISABETH EGAN // AUTHOR OF A WINDOW OPENS

"Watchung Books in Montclair, New Jersey, is not only my favorite bookstore, it might just be my favorite place other than the Jersey shore. Not only do I love what they sell, I love the buzz of people talking about books and the smell of all those fresh pages. I live right around the corner, so I try to duck into the bookstore as often as possible. I also love walking my dog past the window at night and peering in like a creepy stalker. The sight of all those soldier-straight spines gives me the most delicious sense of peace."

21. KATHERINE APPLEGATE // AUTHOR OF CRENSHAW

"My favorite bookstore? Why not just ask me to pick my favorite child? (And honestly, I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t like.) Still, one of my favorites is Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois. It somehow manages to display a vast and wonderfully curated selection, while staying comfortable and intimate. And the folks who work there are pretty swell."

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Singers George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the band 'Wham!', performing on stage, July 1986
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Andrew Ridgeley (right) and George Michael (1963-2016) of Wham! performing on stage together in Sydney, Australia during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in the Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.

The Origins of 12 Christmas Traditions

Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images
Tom Merton/iStock via Getty Images

From expecting Santa to fill our footwear with gifts to eating cake that looks like tree bark, the holidays are filled with traditions—some of which are downright odd when you stop and think about them. Where did they come from? Wonder no more. Here are the origins of 12 Christmas traditions.

1. Hanging Stockings

While there’s no official record of why we hang socks for Santa, one of the most plausible explanations is that it's a variation on the old tradition of leaving out shoes with hay inside them on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas’s feast day. Lucky children would discover that the hay they left for St. Nick’s donkey had been replaced with treats or coins when they woke up the next morning. Another story says that St. Nicholas learned of a father who was unable to pay for his three daughters' dowries, so St. Nick dropped gold balls down a chimney, which landed in stockings hung by the fire to dry. But this appears to be a modern telling—traditional versions of the story generally have the gold land at the father's feet after being thrown through a window.

Regardless of what started the tradition, people seem to have realized the need to use a decorative stocking in place of an actual sock pretty early on. In 1883, The New York Times wrote:

"In the days of the unobtrusive white stocking, no one could pretend that the stocking itself was a graceful or attractive object when hanging limp and empty from the foot of the bedstead. Now, however, since the adoption of decorated stockings ... even the empty stocking may be a thing of beauty, and its owner can display it with confidence both at the Christmas season and on purely secular occasions."

2. Caroling

Though it may seem like a centuries-old tradition, showing up at people’s houses to serenade them with seasonal tunes only dates back to the 19th century. Before that, neighbors did visit each other to impart wishes of good luck and good cheer, but not necessarily in song. Christmas carols themselves go back hundreds of years, minus the door-to-door part. The mashup of the two ideas didn’t come together until Victorian England, when caroling was part of every holiday—even May Day festivals. As Christmas became more commercialized, caroling for the occasion became more popular.

3. Using Evergreens as Christmas Trees

Rows of Christmas trees at tree farm on cold winter morning
arlutz73/iStock via Getty Images

Before Christianity was even conceived of, people used evergreen boughs to decorate their homes during the winter; the greenery reminded them that plants would return in abundance soon. As Christianity became more popular in Europe, and Germany in particular, the tradition was absorbed into it. Christians decorated evergreen trees with apples to represent the Garden of Eden, calling them "Paradise Trees" around the time of Adam and Eve's name day—December 24. Gradually, the tradition was subsumed into Christmas celebrations.

The tradition spread as immigrants did, but the practice really took off when word got around that England’s Queen Victoria decorated a Christmas tree as a nod to her German husband’s heritage (German members of the British royal family had previously had Christmas trees, but they never caught on with the wider public). Her influence was felt worldwide, and by 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree. Today, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year.

4. The Colors Red and Green

As with many other old Christmas traditions, there’s no hard-and-fast event that deemed red and green the Official Colors of Christmas™. But there are theories—the green may have derived from the evergreen tradition that dates back to before Christianity, and the red may be from holly berries. While they’re winter-hardy, just like evergreens, they also have a religious implication: The red berries have been associated with the blood of Christ.

5. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

To celebrate this joyous season, many people gleefully don hideous knitwear adorned with ribbons, sequins, bows, and lights. In the past, the trend was embraced solely by grandmas, teachers, and fashion-challenged parents, but in the last decade or so, the ugly sweater has gone mainstream. We may have Canada to blame for that: According to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, the ugly sweater party trend can be traced to a 2001 gathering in Vancouver.

6. Leaving Milk and Cookies for Santa

Closeup image of wish list and treats for Santa Claus on table next to burning fireplace
Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images

When we plunk a few Oreos or chocolate chip cookies on a plate for St. Nick, accompanied by a cold glass of milk, we’re actually participating in a tradition that some scholars date back to ancient Norse mythology. According to legend, Odin had an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Kids would leave treats for Sleipnir, hoping that Odin would favor them with gifts in return. The practice became popular again in the U.S. during the Great Depression, when parents tried to impress upon kids the importance of being grateful for anything they were lucky enough to receive for Christmas.

7. The A Christmas Story Marathon on TBS

If one of the highlights of your holiday is tuning in for 24 hours of watching Ralphie Parker nearly shoot his eye out, you’re not alone—over the course of the day, more than 50 million viewers flip to TBS. The marathon first aired on TNT in 1997, then switched to sister station TBS in 2004. This Christmas marks the 20th year for the annual movie marathon.

8. Yule Logs

Chocolate yule log cake with red currant on wooden background
etorres69/iStock via Getty Images

Throwing a yule log on the fire is another tradition that is said to predate Christianity. As part of winter solstice celebrations, Gaels and Celts burned logs decorated with holly, ivy, and pinecones to cleanse themselves of the past year and welcome the next one. They also believed the ashes would help protect against lightning strikes and evil spirits. The practice was scaled down over time, and eventually, it morphed into a more delicious tradition—cake! Parisian bakers really popularized the practice of creating yule log-shaped desserts during the 19th century, with various bakeries competing to see who could come up with the most elaborately decorated yule log.

If you prefer a wood yule log to one covered in frosting, but find yourself sans fireplace, you can always tune in to Yule Log TV.

9. Advent Calendars

Technically, Advent, a religious event that has been celebrated since the 4th century, is a four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the November 30 feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. Traditionally, it marked the period to prepare for Christmas as well as the Second Coming. These days, it’s mostly used as a countdown to Christmas for the religious and the non-religious alike.

The modern commercialized advent calendar, which marks the passage of December days with little doors containing candy or small gifts, are believed to have been introduced by Gerhard Lang in the early 1900s. He was inspired by a calendar that his mother made for him when he was a child that featured 24 colored pictures attached to a piece of cardboard. Today, advent calendars contain everything from candy to LEGOs.

10. Eggnog

Eggnog in two glass cups
GreenArtPhotography/iStock via Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would be inspired to chug a raw egg-based drink, but historians agree that 'nog was probably inspired by a medieval drink called posset, a milky drink made with eggs, milk, and sometimes figs or sherry. These were all pricey ingredients, so the wealthy often used it for toasting.

Eggnog became a holiday drink when colonists brought it over from England, but they found a way to make it on the cheap, nixing the figs and substituting rum for sherry. And how about that weird "nog" name? No one knows for sure, but historians theorize that nog was short for noggin, which was slang for a wooden cup, or a play on the Norfolk variety of beer also called nog (which itself may be named after the cup).

11. Mistletoe

Mistletoe has been associated with fertility and vitality since ancient times, when Celtic Druids saw it as such because it blossomed even during the most frigid winters; the association stuck over the centuries.

It’s easy to see how fertility and kissing can be linked, but no one is quite sure how smooching under the shrub (actually, it’s a parasitic plant) became a common Christmas pastime. We do know the tradition was popular with English servants in the 18th century, then quickly spread to those they served. The archaic custom once allowed men to steal a kiss from any woman standing beneath; if she refused, they were doomed with bad luck.

12. Christmas Cards

Exchanging holiday greetings via mail is a surprisingly recent tradition, with the first formal card hitting shelves in 1843. Designed by an Englishman named J.C. Horsley, the cardboard greeting showed a happy group of people participating in a toast, along with the printed sentiment, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” A thousand of them were printed that first year, and because it cost just a penny to mail a holiday hello to friends and family (the card itself was a shilling, or 12 times as much), the cards sold like hotcakes and a new custom was born. Today, Americans send around 2 billion cards every year.

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