Buying Books in Philadelphia

It's easy for editors at newspaper book sections to get jaded about bookstores. After all, new books are sent to us; we don't have to buy them. As for the leisurely browsing that makes visiting a bookstore a full afternoon's entertainment, well, we browse, but in a rush, between meetings and editing and podcasting and blogging and everything else we have to do in a day.

And then with so many independent book stores closing, we're left with the department-store feel of the big chains, where toys and videos and gadgets outnumber the books. Who wants to browse amid all that cacophony?

So I felt that I had stumbled onto an oasis when my husband and I happened upon the Joseph Fox Bookshop in Philadelphia over the Thanksgiving holiday. The store occupies the first floor of a tiny rowhouse on Sansome Street near Rittenhouse Square, and every corner is filled (so neatly) with thoughtfully chosen books. The children's section, no bigger than my newsroom cubicle, held nearly every treasure of young reader's literature. My husband couldn't be torn away from the architecture section. Even the mysteries, a thin column of a bookshelf, had just the right volumes to satisfy fans.

Better yet, though, are the people who work there. On the day we were there, three women presided from behind the counter, darting out to help any browser whose face registered confusion or indecision. Two of them spent a good 20 minutes (my apologies!) helping a customer find appropriate chapter books for a 4-year-old boy. When a customer mentioned that she enjoyed Marianne Wiggins's The Shadow Catcher, another employee demonstrated that she'd read that novel, could recommend others by Wiggins and pointed out the author's fascination with photography.

Small things, really, that we should experience whenever we go into a bookstore (or a music store or a nursery or a wine shop ..... and the list goes on) but now so rare that exemplars like this one should be treasured.

By Rachel Hartigan Shea |  December 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Rachel Hartigan Shea
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Comments

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I live in southern New Jersey, just outside of Philly, and I will definitely be visiting this book store. What a great blog post.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Posted by: kathycoulnj | December 2, 2008 6:49 PM

Sadly, these are things I used to love about Olsson's in D.C. :(

Posted by: Incredulous2 | December 4, 2008 8:57 AM

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