Roaming up and down the bookstacks of Houston

Houston is a city that still confounds many people. Maybe it's due to the poor but constant media portrayal of Houston as a rough and ready, cowboy and gun-toting town. My experience differs. Over the years I've found Houston to be rich. Rich in money, sure. Rich in oil, oh yeah. But also rich in culture and the arts. Years ago you could count the number of Houston area theaters on two hands. Today, well, the last count I saw toppled the hundred mark.

Houstonians also love books. Like most cities, the landscape is dotted with the chain storefronts of Barnes and Noble and, of course, Borders. Yet independents thrive. I'm not going to name all the bookstores in town but if you feel the need to decompress from all the holiday stress, here are a few of my favorite haunts:

Murder by the Book - For more than three decades, this strong independent bookstore has been the leading local source for mystery book lovers. Today a quick review of upcoming events highlights the attention the publishing world pays to this Houston literary gem. Edgar nominees, New York Times bestselling crime novelists, and debut authors fill the calendar. This Saturday, December 2nd at 4:30 pm meet three authors whose novels use a Houston setting: Houstonians Colleen Thompson and Becky Cochran and Dallas's own L.A. Starks. MBTB is on Bissonnet in between Kirby and Greenbriar.

Brazos Bookstore - For years, Brazos Bookstore has been Houston's home for all things literary. Customers run their fingertips up and down the spines of a wide variety of books lining the shelves and let their imaginations roam. But art and architecture lovers beware. You are guaranteed to fall deeply in love with this store. You'll find wine, cheese, cookies, coffee, and great conversation at their Open House Wednesday and Thursday, December 6th and 7th from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm. Brazos is near Rice University, also on Bissonnet.

Blue Willow Bookshop - While Blue Willow carries all manner of books, those who buy books for children have a particular fondness for this well-run bookstore. If you have a young tot who simply has to write the guy in the red suit, stop by Blue Willow and pick up a letter for Santa. When the letter is finished make sure you return to the store and use their direct-to-the North Pole mailbox. It won't be long before a return letter arrives straight from from Santa's elves. You'll find Blue Willow in a shopping center on Memorial at Dairy Ashford.

Book Browser - Once known as Crandall's Corner, the Book Browser is the ultimate used bookstore. Paperbacks, hardbacks, rare books and collectibles are stacked and shelved in what is now known as "the largest independently owned used book store in Texas." Bless them, everything is alphabetized; this is huge. If you haven't been able to find a particular book, these are the folks to call. They keep a well-maintained database and will, trust me, call you when the book you are seeking is found. They once called me a year after I had put a request in for a rare copy of Dean Koontz's first book on writing. Russell Law and his staff are well-versed in the value of books. Located in the northwest on Pinemont near Antoine, they're worth a visit and well-worth a call.

What about the chains? Well, there can be only one. You'll find me working among the bookstacks at the Borders store in Stafford at The Fountains off HWY 59.

With all the Houston chains and independents, there are plenty of bookstores to go round. Why not tell us about your favorite?

...okay, first post is over. I can breathe. Thanks for the warm welcome, Kevin. I can't believe I'm finally part of the blogHouston team...uh, but that part about making you smarter and more cultured? I've been looking in my closet all morning, and I can't seem to find my super-duper, handy-dandy Houston arts and culture cape, so I'm not promising anything. But don't worry. I won't let that stop me from posting.

Posted by Vikk Simmons @ 12/01/06 10:45 AM | Print |

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