But where we spend our money matters, too, and the current supply-chain disruptions are giving us a taste of what will happen if Amazon manages to drive all the local shops out of business and leaves us at the mercy of a logistics system that was fragile even before the pandemic. If we want these dear local places to survive, we have to spend money there, during the holidays more than ever.
I was in Parnassus last week to buy a copy of a new book by Ann Patchett. Not “These Precious Days,” the book of essays she has coming out later this month, but a tiny book about the history of the store, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Nov. 15. “The Shop Dogs of Parnassus” tells the story of how Ms. Patchett and Karen Hayes, a former sales rep for Random House, founded the store in 2011.
By then all the independent bookstores in Nashville, not to mention the Borders chain, had gone out of business, killed by the online goliath. But Ms. Patchett and Ms. Hayes trusted Nashville to support a store that was just the right size — small and cozy, with comfortable chairs, lovingly chosen books and, perhaps most crucially, dogs. Dogs who offer their bellies for rubbing and who will patiently listen to a child read them a story and sometimes even jump through a hula hoop.
“The Shop Dogs of Parnassus” was published in a limited edition to benefit the Parnassus Foundation, which buys books for children who can’t afford them. It’s a charming tale, and I wasn’t the only one in the store that morning to pick up a copy. As I was browsing near the back, I overheard a customer up front reminiscing about Bear, the much-missed mixed breed who wore a diaper and parked himself at the front door, the store’s unofficial greeter.
Sissy Gardner, who is the assistant floor manager at Parnassus, and who belonged to the late Bear, climbed down off the ladder where she was shelving books. “Would you like a pair of Bear earrings?” she asked the customer. “We’ve stopped selling them, but we still give them away to people who loved Bear.”
That’s how it works at any local bookshop. The love goes in all directions — circling back and forth between writers and readers and booksellers and even old dogs wearing diapers. What more could a person want this holiday season than to shop in a place surrounded by love?